Top 20 Israel facts

  1. The name “Israel” first appears on an Egyptian obelisk from 1209 BCE. The twelve Israelite tribes, having escaped slavery in Egypt, settled in the land of Canaan between 1200 and 1000 BCE.
  2. Jews have had a continuous presence in the land (including the modern-day West Bank) for the past 3,300 years.
  3. Jerusalem has always been considered the focus of Judaism and Jewish identity. Jerusalem is mentioned at least 700 times in the Jewish scriptures. Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Quran.
  4. In 70 CE, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, ravaged the land of Judea and killed hundreds of thousands of Jews.  In an effort to de-Judaize the land, the Romans renamed Judea as “Palestine.” Many Jews fled, although a remnant remained, especially in Galilee.
  5. The word “Palestine” has always been a vague term denoting a mutable territory that is to the south of Syria, to the north of Egypt and to the west of the River Jordan.
  6. There has never been a country or a state called Palestine. But there have been several Jewish commonwealths in the land of Israel.
  7.  The word “Palestinian” does not denote ethnicity. Palestinian Arabs are ethnically and culturally identical to Arabs living in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
  8. Before the State of Israel, the word “Palestinian” usually referred to the Jewish inhabitants of Palestine. It wasn’t until the 1960s that a distinct non-Jewish Palestinian identity came into being.
  9. The Palestinian Arab leadership actively collaborated with Hitler before and during the Second World War and there was talk of bringing the Holocaust to the Middle East in order to eradicate the Jewish population.
  10. In the 1948-49 war, local Arabs were encouraged to leave by their leaders who promised to purge the land of Jews.  Two-thirds of the Arab population evacuated (around 600,000 people). The remaining third were afforded Israeli citizenship rights.
  11. Israel is a multi-ethnic, multi-racial democratic state.  Jews from Europe, Ethiopia, Russia, America and the Middle East live in Israel. A fifth of Israelis are Muslim and Christian Arabs, with full voting and citizenship rights. Minorities such as the Druze, the Samaritans and the Circassians enjoy full rights in Israel.
  12. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. It is the only country in the region where freedom of religion is observed and minority rights (e.g. gay rights) are observed.
  13. Following the creation of the State of Israel, nearly a million Jews who had lived in Arab lands for centuries were forced to flee due to anti-Semitic persecution and pogroms. Many came to Israel and are keen supporters of Likud, Israel’s best-known right-of-center political party.
  14. Many of the Palestinian Arabs who fled in 1948 and 1949 were recent economic migrants to the Holy Land. The United Nations has acknowledged that many had only lived in Israel/Palestine for two years prior to Jewish independence.
  15. The surrounding Arab nations have consistently refused to integrate the Palestinians, preferring to keep them in camps. The UN has perpetuated this problem by creating a unique agency for the Palestinians.  Since 1971 and for nearly ten years, the UN General Assembly condemned Israel every year for trying to rehabilitate the refugees.  This condemnation always had one requirement: “Send the refuges to the camps.”
  16. UN Security Council Resolution 242 does not call on Israel to withdraw from the West Bank but instead calls for a negotiated solution which would leave Israel with secure borders.
  17. Following the 1993 Oslo accords, the Palestinians were given full control over 55% of the West Bank population and administrative control over a further 41% of the population.
  18. Contrary to popular opinion, the Jewish settlements in the West Bank (or Judea and Samaria) are legal under international law. The League of Nations’ Mandate for Palestine (1922) encouraged the Jews to settle the entire Land of Israel (including the modern-day West Bank). This legal instrument has never been superseded.
  19. Since 2000, the Palestinian leadership had three major opportunities to establish an independent state. Yasser Arafat walked away from the Camp David talks in 2000 despite being promised 92% of the West Bank, 100% of Gaza and east Jerusalem. A resolution was also put forward by the Israelis in 2008, in which the Palestinians would receive Gaza, the majority of the West Bank, parts of east Jerusalem, safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza, and the dismantling of settlements in the Jordan Valley and eastern Samaria. Unfortunately, Mahmoud Abbas did not give a final response on the matter and negotiations ended.
  20. Israel is not the only country to impose a blockade on Gaza. Egypt, too, has imposed a blockade because of Hamas. Despite the blockades, Gaza’s real GDP grew by more than 25% during the first three quarters of 2011. Gaza also boasts a five-star hotel, restaurants, a luxury shopping mall, vibrant markets and a thriving beach community.