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Fun Facts about Israel

A quick overview and some stats
to help you get a feel for this dynamic place.

 

Get oriented

 

Fun Facts about Israel

Population: 8.5 million and growing

Size: Israel is about the size of New Jersey. It is the 48th smallest country in the world by total land area, just behind Slovenia and just ahead of El Salvador.

Government: Israel is a parliamentary democracy with three branches – executive, legislative and judicial. While it does not have a formal written constitution, its Basic Laws function as such.

Key dates: Independence Day is May 14. Passover takes place in the spring, and the the New Year, Rosh Hashana, takes place in October.

Capitol: Located in Jerusalem, but most foreign embassies are centered in Tel Aviv.

Bodies of water: Sea of Galilee, Dead Sea and the Jordan River. The Sea of Galilee is the lowest freshwater lake in the world.  Dead Sea is the lowest spot on planet earth (and 8.6 times saltier than the ocean). These bodies of water are fed by the melting snows of Mt. Hermon (9,232′) in the north. In Israel, you can ski in the morning and swim in the afternoon.

Mt. Hermon, Grace Israel Trip, March, 2014

Mt. Hermon

Major religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Nearly 50% of the world’s Jews live in Israel.

Currency: Shekel

Primary Languages: Hebrew and Arabic. Israel is the only country to have revived an ancient language and updated it for modern use. Hebrew was essentially extinct for almost 1,400 years. Today more than 9 million people speak it worldwide; there are approximately 5 million Hebrew speakers living in Israel.

Archaeology: Israel is one of the most historically rich countries in the world. Currently, there are over 2,000 active archaeological digs. It seems each week stories of amazing new finds show up on major news sites both confirming and illustrating biblical stories.

Recreation: Israel has 137 designated beaches. Tel-Aviv is ranked as the 9th nicest beach in the world. Today you can sunbathe on the Mediterranean coast, windsurf on the Sea of Galilee, rappel in the Upper Galilee Canyon and go mountain biking over rugged terrain.

Tourism: According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, tourism in Israel has reached an all time high. In 2015, a total of 3.1 million tourists visited Israel

Geography: Israel’s terrain is diverse, ranging from the Negev desert in the south to the snow capped peaks of Mt. Hermon to the north. This compact country contains four distinct regions regions: desert, coastal plain, central hills and the Jordan rift valley.

Environment: Thanks to an aggressive tree-planting program, Israel entered the 21st century with a net gain in the number of trees. In 1867 Mark Twain observed that Palestine was, “a desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds… a silent mournful expanse…. a desolation.” Those days are long gone. The land now flourishes with life.

Prayer: Close to one million prayer notes are left in the little niches in the Western Wall each year. They are cleaned out before Passover and Rosh Hashanah.

Music: Classical music rules in Israel! For its size, Israel has more orchestras than any other nation in the world. For instance, the famed violinist Pinchas Zukerman lives and works in Israel. A partial list is here.

Culture: Israel has more museums on a per capita basis than any other country in the world, same with college degrees and startup companies. Apart from Silicon Valley, it has the highest concentration of high-tech companies in the world. (Google and Intel have offices there.) It has the second highest offering of new books. Israeli scientists produce more academic papers than any other country on a per capita basis. Nine Israelis have won the Nobel Prize for various achievements.

The following things were invented or developed in Israel: antivirus software, voicemail technology, cell phone technology, instant messaging software, cherry tomatoes and jellyfish repellent.

An interesting world record: In March of 2016, a 112-year-old Israeli holocaust survivor was named ‘Oldest Man on Earth’ by Guinness World Records. Israel Kristal was born on September 15, 1903 and survived two months at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944..

And I’m sure you didn’t know this: Albert Einstein was offered the presidency of Israel in a letter dated November 17, 1952. Einstein politely and humbly declined saying he, “[lacked] both the natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people and to exercise official functions.”