Located in the middle east, Israel is a small country of about 13,715 sq mi with coasts along the Mediterranean and Red seas. Israel is bordered by Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the Palestinian territories of West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Like the colors of the Jewish prayer shawl (tallit) , the Israeli flag is blue and white with the Star of David in the center.
Israel follows a democratic parliamentary government system, and in place of a constitution, the nation is governed according to the Basic Laws of Parliament, Israeli Citizenship law, and the Declaration of Independence, which was signed in 1948. Israel’s official language is Hebrew, and Judaism is the major religion of its approximately 9 million citizens. The capital city of Israel is Jerusalem. As the holy site for the world’s three major religions— Judaism, Christianity, and Islam— Jurusalem has a long, rich, and also complicated history, more of which is explained in this short video that covers the history of Israel. In fact, 2000 of the archaeological sites found in Israel are located in Jerusalem alone! An hour’s train ride will take you to Israel’s most populous city off the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Tel Aviv has been hailed as a top international destination for tourists thanks to its cuisine, nightlife, and skyscrapers.
Israeli cuisine pulls together the best of Middle Eastern flavors. The staple ingredients in any Israeli dish are usually fresh vegetables, fruit, olive oil, and garlic. Hummus masabacha and falafel are well-known dishes prepared with chickpeas, garnished with lemon-spiked tahini, and served with pita bread. Shakshuka is a traditional breakfast dish made of eggs, peppers, tomatoes, and coriander. Kanafeh is a dessert dish consisting of a cheesy pastry soaked in sweet syrup.
As a platform for promoting cultural identity and nation-building, music is an important component of Israeli life. Just like its cuisine, Israel’s music scene has been transformed by global influences, particularly of French, German, and Greek origins. A major pivot in the development of Israeli music was the immigration of over one million Jews from the Soviet Union in the 1990s, bringing with them new musical influences. Musical genres like rock, pop, rap, folk, and musical traditions like “Songs of the Land of Israel,” contribute to Israel’s distinctive music scene. The Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra is another important component of Israel’s music tradition as one of the world’s preeminent symphony orchestras. Televised singing competitions like A Star is Born (the Israeli equivalent to American Idol) are also very popular and have launched the musical careers of artists like Ninet Tayeb and Harel Moyal. Check out Mi'Ma'amakim from the Idan Raichel Project to see how all of Israel’s musical influences come together in a fusion of contemporary sounds, traditional Hebrew texts, East African rhythms, and Middle Eastern soul.
Without the contributions Israel has made with respect to research, development, and technology, the modern world would not look the way it does today. Motorola Israel R&D Center developed original cell phone technology— the basis for smartphones used today— as well as voicemail technology. Israel is also the world leader in in vitro fertilization (IVF). Of course, Israeli’s paramount contribution is indubitably the cherry tomato, developed by two professors at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.