Israel

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Economy

Israel is considered the most advanced country in Western Asia and the Middle East in economic and industrial development. As of October 2023, the IMF estimated Israel’s GDP at $521.7 billion and its GDP per capita at $53.2 thousand, ranking 13th worldwide. It is the third richest country in Asia by nominal per capita income. Israel has the highest average wealth per adult in the Middle East. The Economist ranked Israel as the 4th most successful economy among the developed countries for 2022. It has the most billionaires in the Middle East and the 18th most in the world. In recent years, Israel had one of the highest growth rates in the developed world. In 2010, it joined the OECD. The country is ranked 20th in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report and 35th on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index. Israel was also ranked 5th in the world by the share of people in high-skilled employment. Israeli economic data covers the economic territory of Israel, including the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, and Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Despite limited natural resources, intensive development of the agricultural and industrial sectors over the past decades has made Israel largely self-sufficient in food production, apart from grains and beef. Imports to Israel, totaling $96.5 billion in 2020, include raw materials, military equipment, investment goods, rough diamonds, fuels, grain, and consumer goods. Leading exports include machinery, equipment, software, cut diamonds, agricultural products, chemicals, textiles, and apparel; in 2020, Israeli exports reached $114 billion. The Bank of Israel holds $201 billion of foreign exchange reserves, the 17th highest in the world. Since the 1970s, Israel has received military aid from the United States, as well as economic assistance in the form of loan guarantees, which account for roughly half of Israel’s external debt. Israel has one of the lowest external debts in the developed world and is a lender in terms of net external debt (assets vs. liabilities abroad), which in 2015 stood at a surplus of $69 billion.

Israel has the second-largest number of startup companies after the United States and the third-largest number of NASDAQ-listed companies. It is the world leader in several start-ups per capita, earning it the nickname “Start-Up Nation.” Intel and Microsoft built their first overseas research and development facilities in Israel, and other high-tech multinational corporations have opened research and development centers in the country.

The working days in Israel are Sunday through Thursday for a five-day workweek, or Friday for a six-day workweek. In observance of Shabbat, in places where Friday is a workday and most of the population is Jewish, Friday is a “short day.” Several proposals have been raised to adjust the work week to align more closely with most of the world.

Science and Technology

Matam high-tech park in Haifa

Israel’s development of cutting-edge technologies in software, communications, and the life sciences has evoked comparisons with Silicon Valley. Israel is first in the world in expenditure on research and development as a percentage of GDP. It was ranked 14th in the Global Innovation Index in 2023 and fifth in the 2019 Bloomberg Innovation Index. Israel has 140 scientists, technicians, and engineers per 10,000 employees, the highest number in the world. Israel has produced six Nobel Prize-winning scientists since 2004 and has been frequently ranked as one of the countries with the highest ratios of scientific papers per capita. Israeli universities are ranked among the top 50 world universities in computer science (Technion and Tel Aviv University), mathematics (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), and chemistry (Weizmann Institute of Science).

In 2012, Israel was ranked ninth in the world by Futron’s Space Competitiveness Index. The Israel Space Agency coordinates all Israeli space research programs with scientific and commercial goals and has designed and built at least 13 commercial, research, and spy satellites. Some of Israel’s satellites are ranked among the world’s most advanced space systems. Shavit is a space launch vehicle produced by Israel to launch small satellites into low Earth orbit. It was first launched in 1988, making Israel the eighth nation to have a space launch capability. In 2003, Ilan Ramon became Israel’s first astronaut, serving on the fatal mission of Space Shuttle Columbia.

The ongoing water shortage has spurred innovation in water conservation techniques, and a substantial agricultural modernization, drip irrigation, was invented in Israel. Israel is also at the technological forefront of desalination and water recycling. The Sorek desalination plant is the largest seawater reverse osmosis desalination facility in the world. By 2014, Israel’s desalination programs provided roughly 35% of Israel’s drinking water, and it is expected to supply 70% by 2050. As of 2015, over 50 percent of the water for Israeli households, agriculture, and industry is artificially produced. In 2011, Israel’s water technology industry was worth around $2 billion a year with annual exports of products and services in the tens of millions of dollars. As a result of innovations in reverse osmosis technology, Israel is set to become a net exporter of water.

Israel has embraced solar energy; its engineers are on the cutting edge of solar energy technology, and its solar companies work on projects around the world. Over 90% of Israeli homes use solar energy for hot water, the highest per capita. According to government figures, the country saves 8% of its electricity consumption per year because of its solar energy use in heating. The high annual incident solar irradiance at its geographic latitude creates ideal conditions for what is an internationally renowned solar research and development industry in the Negev Desert. Israel had a modern electric car infrastructure involving a countrywide network of charging stations. However, Israel’s electric car company Better Place shut down in 2013.

Energy

Israel began producing natural gas from its offshore gas fields in 2004. In 2009, a natural gas reserve, Tamar, was found near the coast of Israel. A second reserve, Leviathan, was discovered in 2010. The natural gas reserves in these two fields could make Israel energy-secure for more than 50 years. In 2013, Israel began commercial production of natural gas from the Tamar field. As of 2014, Israel produced over 7.5 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas a year. Israel had 199 billion bcm of proven reserves of natural gas as of 2016. The Leviathan gas field started production in 2019.

Ketura Sun is Israel’s first commercial solar field. Built-in 2011 by the Arava Power Company, the field consists of 18,500 photovoltaic panels made by Suntech, which produce about 9 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity per year. Over the next twenty years, the field will prevent the production of approximately 125,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Transport

Israel has 19,224 kilometers (11,945 miles) of paved roads and 3 million motor vehicles. The number of motor vehicles per 1,000 persons is 365, which is relatively low among developed countries. The country aims to have 30% of vehicles on its roads powered by electricity by 2030.

Israel operates 5,715 buses on scheduled routes, managed by several carriers, the largest and oldest of which is Egged, serving most of the country. Railways stretch across 1,277 kilometers (793 miles) and are operated by government-owned Israel Railways. Following major investments beginning in the early to mid-1990s, the number of train passengers per year has grown from 2.5 million in 1990 to 53 million in 2015. Railways transport 7.5 million tons of cargo per year.

Israel is served by three international airports: Ben Gurion Airport, the country’s main hub for international air travel; Ramon Airport; and Haifa Airport. Ben Gurion, Israel’s largest airport, handled over 21.1 million passengers in 2023. The country has three main ports: the Port of Haifa, the country’s oldest and largest, on the Mediterranean coast; Ashdod Port; and the smaller Port of Eilat on the Red Sea.

Tourism

Ein Bokek resort on the shore of the Dead Sea

Tourism, especially religious tourism, is an important industry in Israel. The country’s beaches, archaeological sites, historical and biblical landmarks, and unique geography attract a significant number of tourists. Despite Israel’s security challenges, the tourism industry has shown resilience and growth. In 2017, a record 3.6 million tourists visited Israel, marking a 25 percent increase from 2016. This influx of visitors contributed NIS 20 billion to the Israeli economy.

Real Estate

Housing prices in Israel rank in the top third globally, with an average of 150 salaries required to purchase an apartment. As of 2022, Israel had approximately 2.7 million properties, increasing by over 50,000 annually. Despite this growth, housing demand significantly exceeds supply, resulting in a shortage of about 200,000 apartments as of 2021. Consequently, housing prices rose by 5.6% in 2021. In the same year, Israelis took out a record NIS 116.1 billion in mortgages, marking a 50% increase from 2020.

Demographics

Immigration to Israel in the years 1948–2015. The two peaks were in 1949 and 1990.

Israel has the largest Jewish population in the world and is the only country where Jews are the majority. As of 31 December 2022, Israel’s population was an estimated 9,656,000. In 2022, the government recorded 73.6% of the population as Jews, 21.1% as Arabs, and 5.3% as “Others” (non-Arab Christians and people who have no religion listed). Over the last decade, large numbers of migrant workers from Romania, Thailand, China, Africa, and South America have settled in Israel. Exact figures are unknown, as many of them are living in the country illegally, but estimates run from 166,000 to 203,000. By June 2012, approximately 60,000 African migrants had entered Israel. About 93% of Israelis live in urban areas. 90% of Palestinian Israelis reside in 139 densely populated towns and villages concentrated in the Galilee, Triangle, and Negev regions, with the remaining 10% in mixed cities and neighborhoods. The OECD in 2016 estimated the average life expectancy at 82.5 years, the 6th-highest in the world. Israeli Arab life expectancy lags by 3 to 4 years and is higher than in most Arab and Muslim countries. Retention of Israel’s population since 1948 is about even or greater when compared to other countries with mass immigration. Jewish emigration from Israel (called yerida), primarily to the United States and Canada, is described by demographers as modest but is often cited by Israeli government ministries as a major threat to Israel’s future.

Approximately 80% of Israeli Jews are born in Israel, 14% are immigrants from Europe and the Americas, and 6% are immigrants from Asia and Africa. Jews from Europe and the former Soviet Union and their descendants born in Israel, including Ashkenazi Jews, constitute approximately 44% of Jewish Israelis. Jews from Arab and Muslim countries and their descendants, including both Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews, form most of the rest of the Jewish population. Jewish intermarriage rates run at over 35% and recent studies suggest that the percentage of Israelis descended from both Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews increases by 0.5 percent yearly, with over 25% of schoolchildren now originating from both. Around 4% of Israelis (300,000), ethnically defined as “others”, are Russian descendants of Jewish origin or family who are not Jewish according to rabbinical law but were eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return.

The total number of Israeli settlers beyond the Green Line is over 600,000 (≈10% of the Jewish Israeli population). In 2016, 399,300 Israelis lived in West Bank settlements, including those that predated the establishment of the State of Israel and which were re-established after the Six-Day War, in cities such as Hebron and the Gush Etzion bloc. Additionally, more than 200,000 Jews were living in East Jerusalem and 22,000 in the Golan Heights. Approximately 7,800 Israelis lived in settlements in the Gaza Strip, known as Gush Katif until they were evacuated by the government as part of its 2005 disengagement plan.

Israeli Arabs (including the Arab population of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights) comprise 21.1% of the population or 1,995,000 people. In a 2017 poll, 40% of Arab citizens of Israel identified as “Arab in Israel” or “Arab citizen of Israel”, 15% identified as “Palestinian”, 8.9% as “Palestinian in Israel” or “Palestinian citizen of Israel”, and 8.7% as “Arab”; a poll found that 60% of Israeli Arabs have a positive view of the state.

Major Urban Areas

View over the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area

Israel has four major metropolitan areas: Gush Dan (Tel Aviv metropolitan area; population 3,854,000), Jerusalem (population 1,253,900), Haifa (924,400), and Beersheba (377,100).

Israel’s largest municipality, in both population and area, is Jerusalem, with 981,711 residents in an area of 125 square kilometers (48 sq mi). Israeli government statistics on Jerusalem include the population and area of East Jerusalem, the status of which is internationally disputed. Tel Aviv and Haifa rank as Israel’s next most populous cities, with populations of 474,530 and 290,306, respectively. The mainly Haredi city of Bnei Brak is the most densely populated city in Israel and one of the 10 most densely populated cities in the world.

Israel has 16 cities with populations over 100,000. As of 2018, there are 77 Israeli localities granted “municipalities” (or “city”) status by the Ministry of the Interior, four of which are in the West Bank.

Language

Road signs in Hebrew, Arabic, and English

Israel’s official language is Hebrew, which is spoken daily by the majority of the population and serves as the primary language of the state. Before 1948, the Zionist movement and the Yishuv opposed Yiddish, the historical language of Ashkenazi Jews, promoting Hebrew as a unifying national language. This led to early Israeli government policies that largely banned Yiddish theatre performances and publications.

Until 2018, Arabic was also an official language of Israel. In 2018, its status was changed to “special status in the state.” Arabic is spoken by the Arab minority, with Hebrew taught in Arab schools.

Mass immigration from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia has made Russian and Amharic widely spoken languages in Israel. Over one million Russian-speaking immigrants arrived in Israel between 1990 and 2004, and approximately 130,000 Ethiopian Jews live in the country. French is spoken by around 700,000 Israelis, primarily those originating from France and North Africa (Maghrebi Jews).

English, although no longer an official language since the Mandate period, retains a significant role. Many Israelis communicate reasonably well in English, as numerous television programs are broadcast in English with subtitles, and the language is taught from the early grades in elementary school. Israeli universities also offer courses in English on various subjects.

Religion

The Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall, Jerusalem

The religious affiliation of the Israeli population as of 2022 was 73.6% Jewish, 18.1% Muslim, 1.9% Christian, and 1.6% Druze. The remaining 4.8% included faiths such as Samaritanism and Baháʼí, as well as “religiously unclassified.”

Among Israeli Jews, religious affiliation varies widely. A 2016 Pew Research survey indicates that 49% identify as Hiloni (secular), 29% as Masorti (traditional), 13% as Dati (religious), and 9% as Haredi (ultra-Orthodox). Haredi Jews are expected to represent over 20% of Israel’s Jewish population by 2028.

Muslims constitute Israel’s largest religious minority, making up about 17.6% of the population. About 2% of the population is Christian, and 1.6% is Druze. The Christian population primarily comprises Arab Christians and Aramean Christians but also includes post-Soviet immigrants, foreign laborers, and followers of Messianic Judaism, which most Christians and Jews consider a form of Christianity. Members of other religious groups, including Buddhists and Hindus, maintain a presence in Israel, albeit in small numbers. Among over one million immigrants from the former Soviet Union, about 300,000 are considered not Jewish by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

Israel encompasses a major part of the Holy Land, a region of significant importance to all Abrahamic religions. The city of Jerusalem holds special importance to Jews, Muslims, and Christians, as it is home to pivotal religious sites such as the Old City, the Western Wall, the Temple Mount (Al-Aqsa Mosque compound), and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Other locations of religious significance include Nazareth (site of the Annunciation of Mary), Tiberias and Safed (two of the Four Holy Cities in Judaism), the White Mosque in Ramla (shrine of the prophet Saleh), and the Church of Saint George and Mosque of Al-Khadr in Lod (tomb of Saint George or Al Khidr). Several other religious landmarks are in the West Bank, including Joseph’s Tomb, the birthplace of Jesus, Rachel’s Tomb, and the Cave of the Patriarchs. The administrative center of the Baháʼí Faith and the Shrine of the Báb are located at the Baháʼí World Centre in Haifa; the faith’s leader is buried in Acre. The Mahmood Mosque is affiliated with the reformist Ahmadiyya movement. Kababir, a mixed neighborhood of Jews and Ahmadi Arabs in Haifa is one of a few of its kind in the country.

Education

Education is highly valued in Israeli culture and has been fundamental since ancient times. In 2015, Israel ranked third among OECD members for the percentage of 25–64-year-olds with tertiary education, at 49% compared to the OECD average of 35%. In 2012, Israel ranked third in the number of academic degrees per capita, with 20 percent of the population holding such degrees.

Israel has a school life expectancy of 16 years and a literacy rate of 97.8%. The State Education Law (1953) established five types of schools: state secular, state religious, ultra-orthodox, communal settlement schools, and Arab schools. The public secular school system is the largest and is attended by the majority of Jewish and non-Arab pupils. Most Arabs send their children to schools where Arabic is the language of instruction. Education is compulsory for children between the ages of three and eighteen. Schooling is divided into three tiers: primary school (grades 1–6), middle school (grades 7–9), and high school (grades 10–12), culminating with Bagrut matriculation exams. Proficiency in core subjects such as mathematics, Hebrew language and literature, English, history, Biblical scripture, and civics is necessary to receive a Bagrut certificate.

Israel’s Jewish population maintains a relatively high level of educational attainment, with 46% of Israeli Jews holding post-secondary degrees. Israeli Jews aged 25 and older have an average of 11.6 years of schooling, making them one of the most highly educated major religious groups in the world. In Arab, Christian, and Druze schools, the exam on Biblical studies is replaced by an exam on Muslim, Christian, or Druze heritage. In 2020, 68.7% of all Israeli twelfth graders earned a matriculation certificate.

Israel has a strong tradition of higher education, which has significantly contributed to the nation’s modern economic development. Israel has nine public universities subsidized by the state and 49 private colleges. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem houses the National Library of Israel, the world’s largest repository of Judaica and Hebraica. The Technion and the Hebrew University consistently rank among the world’s top 100 universities by the ARWU ranking. Other major universities include the Weizmann Institute of Science, Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Bar-Ilan University, the University of Haifa, and the Open University of Israel.

Culture

Israel’s cultural diversity stems from its diverse population, with Jews from various diaspora communities bringing their cultural and religious traditions with them. Arab influences are present in many cultural spheres, such as architecture, music, and cuisine. Israel is the only country where life revolves around the Hebrew calendar, with holidays determined by the Jewish holidays. The official day of rest is Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.

Literature

Israeli literature primarily consists of poetry and prose written in Hebrew, marking the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language since the mid-19th century, although a small body of literature is published in other languages. By law, two copies of all printed matter published in Israel must be deposited in the National Library of Israel. In 2001, the law was amended to include audio and video recordings, and other non-print media. In 2016, 89 percent of the 7,300 items transferred to the library were in Hebrew.

In 1966, Shmuel Yosef Agnon shared the Nobel Prize in Literature with German Jewish author Nelly Sachs, highlighting the global recognition of Israeli literary talent. Prominent Israeli poets include Yehuda Amichai, Nathan Alterman, Leah Goldberg, and Rachel Bluwstein. Internationally acclaimed contemporary Israeli novelists include Amos Oz, Etgar Keret, and David Grossman, whose works explore themes ranging from the complexities of Israeli society to profound human experiences.

Israeli literature continues to evolve, reflecting the rich cultural tapestry and historical experiences unique to the nation.

Music and Dance

Israeli music encompasses a diverse array of styles and influences, reflecting the country’s multicultural heritage. It includes Mizrahi and Sephardic music, Hasidic melodies, Greek music, jazz, and pop rock. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, established over seventy years ago, remains a cornerstone of the country’s classical music scene, performing more than two hundred concerts annually. Renowned musicians like Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, and Ofra Haza have gained international acclaim, contributing significantly to the global music landscape.

Israel’s vibrant participation in the Eurovision Song Contest since 1973 highlights its presence in the international music arena, with four victories and two occasions hosting the competition. Since 1987, Eilat has hosted the Red Sea Jazz Festival annually, attracting top musicians and jazz enthusiasts from around the world.

The nation’s folk songs, known as “Songs of the Land of Israel,” form a canonical part of Israeli musical culture, celebrating themes ranging from national pride to everyday life. Israeli music continues to evolve, drawing inspiration from its rich cultural mosaic and historical narratives, making a lasting impact on global music trends.

Cinema and Theatre

Israeli cinema and theatre reflect a rich tapestry of cultural and historical narratives, resonating both locally and internationally. Ten Israeli films have earned final nominations for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, showcasing the country’s prowess in cinematic storytelling. Films by Palestinian Israeli filmmakers, such as Mohammed Bakri’s 2002 work “Jenin, Jenin,” confront complex themes surrounding the Arab-Israeli conflict and the status of Palestinians within Israel. “The Syrian Bride” is another notable film exploring these sensitive topics.

In theatre, Israel maintains a robust tradition rooted in the legacy of Yiddish theatre from Eastern Europe. Established in 1918, Habima Theatre in Tel Aviv stands as Israel’s oldest repertory company and national theatre, continuing to enrich the cultural landscape with diverse performances. Other prominent theatres include Ohel, the Cameri Theatre, and Gesher Theatre, each contributing uniquely to Israel’s vibrant theatrical scene. These institutions not only preserve theatrical heritage but also foster contemporary plays that engage with modern Israeli society, offering audiences a spectrum of dramatic expression and artistic exploration.

Arts

Israeli Jewish art reflects a dynamic fusion of historical, cultural, and contemporary influences, showcasing a rich tapestry of creativity and expression. Influenced by sources such as the Kabbalah, Talmud, and Zohar, Israeli art weaves spiritual and mystical dimensions into its visual narratives. The early 20th century saw the emergence of the School of Paris as a significant influence, shaping artistic trends within the Yishuv community in pre-state Israel. Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, founded in 1906, played a pivotal role in fostering local artistic traditions.

Modern French art, introduced by figures like Isaac Frenkel Frenel in the 1920s, further enriched the Israeli art scene. Artists associated with the School of Paris, such as Soutine, Kikoine, Frenkel, and Chagall, left indelible marks on Israeli art, blending European modernism with local sensibilities. Israeli sculpture drew inspiration from diverse sources, including modern European styles and ancient Mesopotamian and Assyrian art. Notable sculptures like Avraham Melnikov’s “Roaring Lion,” David Polus’ “Alexander Zaid,” and Ze’ev Ben Zvi’s cubist sculptures exemplify the diversity and innovation in Israeli sculpture.

Themes in Israeli art encompass the mystical cities of Safed and Jerusalem, the vibrant café culture of Tel Aviv, pastoral landscapes, biblical narratives, and reflections on conflict and war. Contemporary Israeli art continues to evolve, embracing new forms such as Optical art, AI art, digital art, and innovative techniques like the use of salt in sculpture. These developments highlight Israel’s artistic dynamism and its ongoing dialogue with global artistic trends while preserving its unique cultural heritage and narratives.

Israeli Architecture:

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A Fusion of Influences and Innovations The architectural landscape of Israel has been significantly shaped by the influx of Jewish architects, each bringing their unique perspectives and styles, resulting in a rich tapestry of design influences. In the early 20th century, these architects embarked on a creative journey to merge Occidental and Oriental architectural elements, giving rise to a distinctive blend that characterized buildings with a diverse array of stylistic influences. This eclectic approach evolved as a new wave of architectural thought swept through the region with the arrival of Jewish architects from Germany, many of whom were escaping the looming shadow of Nazi persecution. These architects, including the renowned Erich Mendelsohn, introduced the modernist Bauhaus style, which left an indelible mark on the urban landscape. The most notable testament to this influence is Tel Aviv’s “White City,” an area recognized by UNESCO for its outstanding universal value, showcasing the purity and simplicity of Bauhaus architecture. Post-independence, Israel’s architectural scene continued to evolve, with government-led projects adopting a brutalist approach. This style, characterized by its stark, unadorned use of concrete, was not only a statement of strength and resilience but also a practical response to Israel’s arid climate, emphasizing functionality and sustainability. Innovative concepts such as the Garden City model were also embraced, with Tel Aviv’s Geddes plan gaining international acclaim for its forward-thinking design and successful adaptation to the local environment. This plan was a pioneering example of how urban planning could harmonize with nature, creating livable and sustainable spaces. Moreover, the design of communal settlements known as kibbutzim reflected the ideological underpinnings of their inhabitants. A prime example is the circular kibbutz Nahalal, conceptualized by Richard Kauffmann, which embodied the socialist-Zionist ideals through its innovative layout and communal living spaces. In summary, Israel’s architectural journey is a testament to the fusion of diverse cultural influences, innovative design concepts, and the adaptation to the unique challenges of its climate and geography. From the eclectic to the modernist, brutalist, and beyond, the architectural tapestry of Israel continues to weave together a narrative of resilience, innovation, and harmony.

Media

In the 2024 Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, Israel secured the 101st position out of 180 nations, ranking second within the Middle East and North Africa region, with Qatar taking the lead. The organization highlighted that the Israel Defense Forces had been responsible for the deaths of over 100 journalists in Gaza. Furthermore, since the commencement of the 2023 Israel-Hamas conflict, Israel has been accused of attempting to stifle reports emanating from the Gaza Strip, while misinformation has been seeping into its domestic media environment. On May 5, 2024, Israel took action to close the local branch of Al Jazeera. Later that month, Israeli authorities temporarily confiscated equipment belonging to the Associated Press, leading to a response from the United States government.

Museums

Shrine of the Book, repository of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Jerusalem

The Israel Museum, situated in Jerusalem, stands as a pivotal cultural establishment within Israel. It is renowned for its safekeeping of the Dead Sea Scrolls, alongside an expansive assortment of Judaica and European artworks. Additionally, Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust museum, serves as the global central repository for Holocaust-related documentation. ANU – Museum of the Jewish People, located on the campus of Tel Aviv University, offers an interactive experience that delves into the history of Jewish communities across the globe. Israel boasts the distinction of having the highest number of museums per capita, reflecting its rich cultural and historical landscape. Among its diverse museum offerings are several dedicated to Islamic culture, such as the Rockefeller Museum and the L. A. Mayer Institute for Islamic Art, both located in Jerusalem. The Rockefeller Museum specializes in archaeological artifacts from the Middle East, and it is also the site where the first hominid fossil skull discovered in Western Asia, known as Galilee Man, is housed.

Cuisine

A meal including falafelhummusFrench fries and Israeli salad

Israeli cuisine is a vibrant culinary tradition that encompasses both indigenous dishes and Jewish culinary practices brought by immigrants. Since the late 1970s, there has been a notable evolution towards a unique Israeli fusion cuisine. This culinary style has embraced and continues to integrate elements from Mizrahi, Sephardi, and Ashkenazi cooking methods. It features a wide array of foods commonly found in Levantine, Arab, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean cuisines, such as falafel, hummus, shakshouka, couscous, and za’atar. Additionally, dishes like schnitzel, pizza, hamburgers, French fries, rice, and salads are popular in Israel. Approximately half of the Israeli-Jewish population adheres to keeping kosher in their homes. As of 2015, kosher restaurants constituted about a quarter of the total dining establishments in the country. Despite the religious prohibitions, Israel does produce and consume non-kosher items such as fish, rabbits, ostriches, and pork—the latter often referred to euphemistically as “white meat” in Israel—despite its prohibition in both Judaism and Islam.

Sports

Maccabi Haifa F.C. fans at Sammy Ofer Stadium in the city of Haifa

In Israel, the most favored spectator sports are association football and basketball. The Israeli Premier League is the country’s top-tier football league, while the Israeli Basketball Premier League holds the same distinction for basketball. Maccabi Haifa, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Tel Aviv, and Beitar Jerusalem are the country’s largest football clubs. Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Haifa, and Hapoel Tel Aviv have all competed in the UEFA Champions League, with Hapoel Tel Aviv reaching the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup. Israel hosted and won the 1964 AFC Asian Cup and qualified for the FIFA World Cup in 1970, its only appearance in the tournament. The 1974 Asian Games in Tehran were the last Asian Games Israel participated in, facing boycotts from Arab countries. Excluded from the 1978 Asian Games, Israel has since not competed in Asian sports events. In 1994, UEFA admitted Israel, and its football teams now compete in Europe. Maccabi Tel Aviv B.C. has claimed the European basketball championship six times. Israel has secured nine Olympic medals since its first win in 1992, including a gold medal in windsurfing at the 2004 Summer Olympics. The country has amassed over 100 gold medals in the Paralympic Games, ranking 20th in the all-time medal count. Israel hosted the 1968 Summer Paralympics. The Maccabiah Games, a quadrennial event akin to the Olympics for Jewish and Israeli athletes, were first held in the 1930s. Krav Maga, a martial art developed by Jewish ghetto defenders during the fight against fascism in Europe, is utilized by Israeli security forces and police. Chess is a prominent sport in Israel, with numerous Israeli grandmasters and youth world championships won by Israeli players. Israel hosts an annual international chess championship and was the venue for the World Team Chess Championship in 2005.

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