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, in the Bible

Israel (ĭzˈrēəl, ĭzˈrāəl) [as understood by Hebrews,=he strives with God], according to the book of Genesis, name given to Jacob as eponymous ancestor of the Hebrews, the chosen people of God. In the story, Jacob finds himself struggling with a being who, by the end of the narrative, is sometimes taken to be revealed as God. The story highlights the theme of Jacob's conflict and alienation from people (Isaac, Laban, and Esau) and God. The struggle marks a critical stage in the psychological development of Jacob.

The 12 tribes of Israel were named for 10 sons of Jacob (Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, and Benjamin) and the two sons of Jacob's son Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh); the 13th tribe, Levi (the third of Jacob's sons), was set apart and had no one portion of land of its own. A break in the Hebrew kingdom was precipitated by Rehoboam, a son of Solomon. An independent southern kingdom, consisting of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin as well as a portion of the Levites, was called Judah; the northern kingdom, which consisted of the rest of what had been the larger Hebrew nation, was called Israel.


, country, Asia

Israel (ĭzˈrēəl), officially State of Israel, republic (2015 est. pop. 8,065,000, including Israelis in occupied Arab territories), 7,992 sq mi (20,700 sq km), SW Asia, on the Mediterranean Sea. (The area figure used above does not include the Golan Heights or the West Bank, which are occupied by Israel.) It is bordered by Lebanon in the north, Syria and Jordan in the east, the Mediterranean Sea on the west, Egypt on the southwest, and the Gulf of Aqaba (an arm of the Red Sea) on the south. The capital and largest city of Israel is Jerusalem. This article deals primarily with the events in Israel from 1948 to the present. For the earlier history of the region, see Palestine.

Land and People

The country is a narrow, irregularly shaped strip of land with four principal regions: the plain along the Mediterranean coast; the mountains, which are east of this coastal plain; the Negev, which comprises the southern half of the country; and the portion of Israel that forms part of the Jordan Valley, in turn a part of the Great Rift Valley. North of the Negev, Israel enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with long, hot, dry summers and short, cool, rainy winters. This northern half of the country has a limited but adequate supply of water, except in times of drought. The Negev, however, is a semiarid desert region, having less than 10 in. (25 cm) of rainfall a year.

The most important river in Israel is the Jordan. Other smaller rivers are the Yarkon, the Kishon, and the Yarmuk, a tributary of the Jordan. Other bodies of water include the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea (part of which belongs to neighboring Jordan and the West Bank). Owing to interior drainage and a high rate of evaporation, the waters of the Dead Sea have about eight times as much salt as the ocean.

The highest point in Israel is Mt. Meron (3,692 ft/1,125 m) near Zefat. The lowest point is the shore of the Dead Sea, which is c.1,400 ft (425 m) below sea level, the lowest point on the surface of the earth. In addition to Jerusalem, other important cities include Tel Aviv–Jaffa (see separate entries on Tel Aviv, Jaffa), Haifa, Beersheba, and Netanya).

Israel proper is made up of about 76% Jews, about 18% Arabs, and the rest Druze and others. While the Jewish population as of 1948 consisted mostly of those from central and E Europe (not including Russia), Jews from African and Asian countries came in increasing numbers after 1948. The majority of the current Jewish population was born in Israel. Around 500,000 Russian Jews have arrived more recently, as have most of the small population of Ethiopian Jews (see Falashas). The Arab population is primarily Sunni Muslim; a smaller proportion are Christians. Hebrew is the official language, while Arabic is used officially for the Arab minority and English is widely spoken.


Agriculture in Israel largely depends on extensive irrigation to compensate for the shortage of rainfall. Agricultural exports include citrus and other fruits, vegetables, and cut flowers. Other sizable crops are cotton, wheat, barley, peanuts, sunflowers, grapes, and olives. Poultry and livestock also are raised.

Most of the land (apart from the land belonging to non-Jews) is held in trust for the people of Israel by the state and the Jewish National Fund. The latter was set up in 1901 to buy land in Palestine for Jews to cultivate, and now implements a wide range of forest and land development activities. The Israel Land Authority leases the land to kibbutzim, which are communal agricultural settlements; to moshavim, which are cooperative agricultural communities; and to other agricultural or rural villages.

High-technology industries are Israel's fastest-growing businesses, with emphasis on computers, software, aviation, telecommunications, biotechnology, medical electronics, and fiber optics. Diamond cutting and polishing is also important, and a number of light industries produce wood and paper products, processed foods, tobacco, precision instruments, metal and plastic goods, chemicals, textiles, and footwear. The Dead Sea has minerals of commercial value, such as potash, magnesium bromide, and salt, and there is natural gas offshore in the Mediterranean Sea. Tourism, which is one of Israel's largest sources of revenue, is also important.

Major exports include machinery and equipment, software, high-technology and military products, cut diamonds, agricultural products, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and textiles and apparel. Leading imports are raw materials, military equipment, rough diamonds, fuels, grain, and consumer goods. Although Israel imports more than it exports, the balance of trade is far more favorable now than it was in the early years of the state. The United States is by far the country's largest trading partner, as well as its major source of economic and military aid. Other important trading partners are Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, and Hong Kong.


Israel has no constitution; it is governed under the 1948 Declaration of Establishment as well as parliamentary and citizenship laws. The president is head of state, a largely ceremonial role, and is elected by the legislature for a seven-year term with no term limits. The government is headed by the prime minister, generally the leader of the largest party following legislative elections. The unicameral legislature consists of the 120-seat Knesset, whose members are elected by popular vote for four-year terms. The prime minister appoints a cabinet that must be approved by the Knesset; both the prime minister and the president are responsible to the Knesset. Administratively, the country is divided into six districts.


Beginnings of the Israeli State

The state of Israel is the culmination of nearly a century of activity in Zionism. Following World War I, Great Britain received (1922) Palestine as a mandate from the League of Nations. The struggle by Jews for a Jewish state in Palestine had begun in the late 19th cent. and had become quite active by the 1930s and 40s, when Jewish immigration greatly increased as a result of the events in Europe. Jewish-Arab violence in the area led to the establishment of guerrilla forces on both sides, and there were Jewish terror attacks on the British.

The militant opposition of the Arabs to the division of Palestine to create a Jewish state (and the inability of the British to solve the problem eventually led to the establishment (1947) of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, which devised a plan to divide Palestine into a Jewish state, an Arab state, and a small internationally administered zone including Jerusalem. The General Assembly adopted the recommendations on Nov. 29, 1947. The Jews accepted the plan; the Arabs rejected it. As the British began to withdraw early in 1948, Arabs and Jews prepared for war.

On May 14, 1948, when the British high commissioner for Palestine departed, the state of Israel was proclaimed at Tel Aviv. Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq invaded Israel, as most Palestinian Arabs were driven from Jewish territory. By the time armistice agreements were reached (Jan., 1949), Israel had increased its holdings by about one-half. Jordan annexed the Arab-held area adjoining its territory, and Egypt occupied the coastal Gaza Strip in the southwest.

The New Nation

A government was formed at Tel Aviv, with Chaim Weizmann as president and David Ben-Gurion as prime minister. The capital was moved (Dec., 1949) to Jerusalem to strengthen Israel's claim to that city. Following the Lausanne Conference of 1949, Israel allowed the return of 150,000 Arab refugees, mostly to reunite families. One major aim of the government was to gather in all Jews who wished to immigrate to Israel. This led to the 1950 Law of the Return, which provided for free and automatic citizenship for all immigrant Jews. Border incidents with Egypt, Syria, and Jordan continued.

Trouble in the Gaza area reached new heights in the mid-1950s despite UN intervention, and in 1956, Egyptian President Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal. On Oct. 29, 1956, Israel made a preemptive attack on Egyptian territory and within a few days had conquered the Gaza Strip and the Sinai peninsula, while Britain and France invaded the area of the Suez Canal. Israel eventually yielded to strong pressure from the United States, the USSR, and the United Nations and removed its troops from Sinai in Nov., 1956, and from Gaza by Mar., 1957, as UN forces were sent to the Sinai and Gaza to keep peace between Egypt and Israel. Through this war, Israel succeeded in keeping open its shipping lanes via Elat and the Gulf of Aqaba to the Red Sea.

In 1962, Israel became the scene of the celebrated trial of Adolf Eichmann. In 1963, Ben-Gurion resigned as prime minister and was succeeded in that office by Levi Eshkol. Eshkol had to cope with increased guerrilla incursions into Israel from Syria and the shelling of Israeli villages by the Syrian army from the Golan Heights.

Renewed Hostilities

In May, 1967, Nasser mobilized the Egyptian army in Sinai. The UN then acceded to his demand to withdraw from the Israeli-Egyptian border, where it had been stationed since 1956. Egypt next blockaded the Israeli port of Elat (on the Gulf of Aqaba) by closing the Strait of Tiran.

On June 5, 1967, Israel struck against Egypt and Syria; Jordan subsequently attacked Israel. In six days, Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the Sinai peninsula of Egypt, the Golan Heights of Syria, and the West Bank and Arab sector of E Jerusalem (both under Jordanian rule), thereby giving the conflict the name of the Six-Day War. Israel unified the Arab and Israeli sectors of Jerusalem, and Arab guerrillas stepped up their incursions, operating largely from Jordan. After Eshkol's death in 1969, Golda Meir became prime minister. There followed an inconclusive period when there was neither peace nor war in the area.

On Oct. 6, 1973, on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, Egypt and Syria attacked Israeli positions in the Sinai and the Golan Heights. Other Arab states sent contingents of soldiers to aid in the attack on Israel. Egypt succeeded in sending troops in force across the Suez Canal to the east bank before being halted by Israeli troops. Toward the end of the fighting, the Israelis managed to send their own troops across the Suez Canal to the west bank, encircling Egypt's Third Army on the east bank and clearing a path to Cairo. They also drove the Syrians even further back toward Damascus. A cease-fire called for by the UN Security Council on Oct. 22 and 23 went into effect shortly thereafter.

Attempts at Peace

In Dec., 1973, the first Arab-Israeli peace conference opened in Geneva, Switzerland, under UN auspices. An agreement to disengage Israeli and Egyptian forces was reached in Jan., 1974, largely through the “shuttle diplomacy” mediation of U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Israeli troops withdrew several miles into the Sinai, a UN buffer zone was established, and Egyptian forces reoccupied the east bank of the Suez Canal and a small, adjoining strip of land in the Sinai. A similar agreement between Israel and Syria was achieved in May, 1974, again through the efforts of Kissinger. Under its terms, Israeli forces evacuated the Syrian lands captured in the 1973 war (while continuing to hold most of the territory conquered in 1967, such as the Golan Heights) and a UN buffer zone was created.

Golda Meir resigned and was succeeded (1974) by Yitzhak Rabin, who formed a coalition government. In 1977, the Likud party under the leadership of Menachem Begin defeated the Labor party for the first time in Israeli elections. As prime minister, Begin strongly supported the development of Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories and opposed Palestinian sovereignty.

Egypt began peace initiatives with Israel in late 1977, when Egyptian President Sadat visited Jerusalem. A year later, with the help of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, terms of peace between Egypt and Israel were negotiated at Camp David, Md. (see Camp David accords). A formal treaty, signed on Mar. 26, 1979, in Washington, D.C., granted full recognition of Israel by Egypt, opened trade relations between the two countries, returned the Sinai to Egyptian control (completed in 1982), and limited Egyptian military buildup in the Sinai.

The 1980s to the Present

Israeli troops briefly invaded (1979) Lebanon in an unsuccessful attempt to eliminate Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) bases and forces used in raids on N Israel. On June 6, 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon in a second attempt. Israeli troops advanced to Beirut and surrounded the western part of the city, which housed PLO headquarters, and a siege ensued. Israeli troops began a gradual move out of Lebanon (completed in 1985) after PLO forces withdrew from Beirut. A 6-mi (10-km) deep security zone within S Lebanon was established to protect N Israeli settlements.

Begin had been returned to office in 1981, but he resigned in 1983 and was replaced by Likud's Yitzhak Shamir. Undecisive majorities in the 1984 elections led to a sharing of the prime ministership by Shamir and Shimon Peres of the Labor party. Shamir, who regained sole prime ministership after the 1988 elections, strongly upheld the policy of increased Jewish settlement in the occupied territories. Large numbers of emigrants from Ethiopia and, primarily, the Soviet Union increased Israel's population by nearly 10% in three years (1989–92), leading to increased unemployment and a lack of housing.

In Dec., 1987, a popular Arab uprising (Intifada) began against Israeli rule in the occupied territories. During the Persian Gulf War in early 1991, Israel suffered Iraqi missile attacks, as Iraq unsuccessfully attempted to disrupt the allied coalition and widen the war. Peace talks between Israel, Syria, Lebanon, and a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation began in Aug., 1991.

Rabin reentered the political scene in 1992, becoming prime minister after the defeat of the Likud party and the establishment of a Labor-led coalition. He pursued Arab-Israeli peace negotiations, in which significant progress was made. In 1993, Israel and the PLO signed an accord providing for joint recognition and for limited Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza Strip and Jericho. In 1995, Israel and the PLO agreed on a transition to Palestinian self-rule in most of the West Bank, although acts of terrorism continued to darken Israeli-Palestinian relations. In 1994 a treaty with Jordan ended the 46-year-old state of war between the two nations.

In Nov., 1995, Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing Israeli extremist who opposed the West Bank peace accord with the PLO; Peres, who was foreign minister, became prime minister. In early 1996, Israel was hit by a series of suicide bombs, and Shiite Muslims launched rocket attacks into Israel from Lebanon. Retaliating, Israel blockaded the port of Beirut and launched a series of attacks on targets in S Lebanon.

The 1996 elections, in which the prime minister was elected directly for the first time, resulted in a narrow victory for Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu, who opposed Labor's land-for-peace deals. In an attempt to allay fears about Israel's future policies, Netanyahu pledged to continue the peace process. After setbacks and delays, most of Hebron was handed over to Palestinian control in Jan., 1997, and, under an accord signed in 1998, Israel agreed to withdraw from additional West Bank territory, while the Palestinian Authority pledged to take stronger measures to fight terrorism. Further negotiations over territory, however, were essentially stalled.

In the May, 1999, elections, Labor returned to power under Ehud Barak, a former army chief of staff. He formed a broad-based coalition government, promising to ease tensions between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, as well as to move the peace process forward. In September, Barak and Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, signed an agreement to finalize their borders and determine the status of Jerusalem within a year; Israel also began implementation of a plan to hand over additional West Bank territory, which was completed in Mar., 2000.

Barak's coalition was weakened in May, 2000, when three right-of-center parties pulled out of the government. In the same month, Israeli forces withdrew from the buffer zone that had long been maintained in S Lebanon. In July, negotiations in the United States between Israel and the Palestinians ended without success, and Israeli-Palestinian relations turned extremely acrimonious when a September visit by Ariel Sharon to the Haram esh-Sherif (the Temple Mount to Jews) in Jerusalem sparked riots that escalated into a new, ongoing cycle of violence in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Israel itself. Barak resigned in Dec., 2000, in an attempt to reestablish a electoral mandate, but he was trounced in the Feb., 2001, election by Ariel Sharon, who formed a national unity government.

Despite Israeli military incursions into Palestinian territory and attacks on Palestinian authorities and forces, Palestinian attacks on Israelis in Israel and the occupied territories did not end, and in 2002 Sharon's government ordered the reoccupation of West Bank towns in a new attempt to stop those attacks. In Oct., 2002, Labor members of the government accused Sharon of favoring Israeli settlers in the occupied territories over the poor, and withdrew their support. Left with a minority government, Sharon called for parliamentary elections in early 2003, and in January Likud won a substantial victory at the polls. The following month Sharon formed a four-party, mainly right-wing coalition government.

In May, 2003, Sharon's government accepted the internationally supported “road map for peace” with some limitations; the plan envisioned the establishment of a Palestinian state in three years. Talks resumed with Palestinian authorities, who also negotiated a three-month cease-fire with Palestinian militants, and Israel made some conciliatory moves in Gaza and the West Bank. Suicide bombings and Israeli revenge attacks resumed, however, in August, and in October Israel attacked Syria for the first time in 20 years, bombing what it termed a terrorist training camp in retaliation for suicide bombings.

Israel's ongoing construction of a 400-mi (640-km) fence and wall security barrier in the West Bank, potentially enclosing some 15% of that territory, brought widespread international condemnation in late 2003, and a July, 2004, advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice (requested by Palestinians and the UN General Assembly) termed its construction illegal under international law because it was being constructed on Palestinian lands. Meanwhile, an Israeli court ruling (June) ordered the wall to be rerouted in certain areas because of the hardship it would cause Palestinians.

In March the killing of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin heightened tensions in the occupied territories, especially the Gaza Strip. Sharon's plan to withdraw from the latter, while supported by most Israelis, was rejected in a nonbinding vote (May, 2004) by Likud party members. The plan then resulted in defections from his coalition, but Sharon vowed to complete the withdrawal, which was being undertaken for security reasons, by the end of 2005. In Oct., 2004, he secured parliamentary approval for the plan. The plan also called for abandoning a few settlements in the West Bank while expanding others there. Sharon formed a new coalition that included the Labor party, which supported the Gaza withdrawal, in Jan., 2005. He subsequently agreed to a truce with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, and in Mar., 2005, Israeli forces began withdrawing from Jericho and other West Bank towns. The planned Gaza withdrawal sparked protests by settlers and their allies beginning in June, but in August the evacuation of the settlements proceeded relatively straightforwardly. Israeli troops withdrew from Gaza the following month.

In Nov., 2005, Shimon Peres lost his Labor party leadership post to Amir Peretz, a trade union leader. Peretz pulled Labor from the government, prompting new elections, and Sharon withdrew from Likud to form the centrist Kadima [Forward] party, in an attempt to force a realignment of Israeli politics and retain the prime ministership. In Jan., 2006, however, Sharon suffered an incapacitating stroke and was hospitalized. Ehud Olmert, the deputy prime minister, became acting prime minister and leader of the new party.

The Kadima party won a plurality in the Mar., 2006, elections, with Labor placing second. In April, Sharon was declared permanently incapacitated; Olmert became prime minister, and in May formed a new coalition government. Escalating rocket attacks from Gaza and the capture by Hamas guerrillas of an Israeli soldier led to an Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip in June, 2006, as well as other actions against Hamas and the Palestinians. Israel continue to mount attacks into Gaza in the succeeding months.

In July, Lebanese Hezbollah forces captured two Israeli soldiers, and Israel launched air attacks against targets throughout Lebanon and sent troops as far as 18.5 mi (30 km) into S Lebanon; Hezbollah responded mainly with rocket attacks against N Israel, including Haifa and Tiberias, but also offered resistance on the ground against Israeli forces. A UN-mediated cease-fire took effect in mid-August, and by early October Israel had essentially withdrawn from Lebanon. The invasion's aim of disarming Hezbollah and winning the release of the captured Israeli soldiers was in the main unattained, and Hezbollah's sustained resistance to Israeli forces enhanced the group's prestige in the Arab world. Amnesty International accused both sides of war crimes in the fighting, mainly because of their attacks on civilians.

As a result of the fighting in Gaza and Lebanon and the rise of Hamas in the Palestinian Authority, Olmert suspended his planned unilateral withdrawal from parts of the West Bank, and brought (Oct,. 2006) a far-right party into his government to strengthen the coalition in the Knesset. Also in October, Israeli police accused Israeli President Moshe Katsav of sexual assault and other crimes, prompting an investigation and leading to calls for Katsav to resign (which he refused to do). The Israeli group Peace Now asserted in November that, according to government documents, nearly 40% (and perhaps more) of the land on which Israel's West Bank settlements were built was privately owned Palestinian land, in violation of Israeli law. More current information given by the government to the group in Mar., 2007, indicated that private land made up more than 30% of the settlements but did not indicate how much was Palestinian-owned (the vast bulk of the private land in the first set of documents was Palestinian).

In Jan., 2007, the head of the Israeli armed forces resigned, taking responsibility for the unsuccessful anti-Hezbollah campaign of 2006; his resignation led the opposition to call for the prime minister and defense minister to resign as well. (An independent report, released in Apr., 2007, was critical of the prime minister's and defense minister's handling of the invasion.) Late in Jan., 2007, Katsav secured a suspension of his duties as president after Israel's attorney general said he was considering charging Katsav with rape and other crimes; a plea deal in June allowed him to plead guilty to lesser charges and avoid prison but forced him to resign. (In Apr., 2008, however, Katsav withdrew from the plea bargain and decided to contest any charges; he was convicted of rape in Dec., 2010.) and Shimon Peres was elected president earlier the same month.

The takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas forces (also in June, 2007) led to increased talks with the Palestinian Authority and other moves designed to strengthen President Abbas, as well as Israeli restrictions on cross-border trade into the Gaza Strip. In September, Israeli jets attacked a military site in N Syria that some reports suggested was part of nuclear program. Under U.S.-sponsorship, an international Mideast peace conference was held in Annapolis, Md., in Nov., 2007, in an attempt to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. In early 2008, in response to Hamas rocket attacks, Israel tightened its blockade of goods into the Gaza Strip, but that move and Israeli retaliatory attacks failed to stop the rocket attacks. In June, 2008, however, Egypt brokered a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza's Palestinian factions that included an easing of border restrictions, and the cease-fire largely held until November.

Also in June, Olmert, facing the loss of Labor party support because of an investigation into his alleged receipt of bribes, agreed to face a vote for the leadership of Kadima in Sept., 2008, in order to preserve the governing coalition; he later decided not to run for party leader. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was elected Kadima party leader, but she was unable to form a new governing coalition.

In Nov., 2008, significant fighting between Palestinian and Israeli forces began in Gaza, with rocket attacks against neighboring portions of Israel and Israeli retaliatory strikes against the Gaza Strip. In Jan., 2009, Israeli forces invaded the territory in what Israel said was an attempt to stop rocket attacks against Israel (during the fighting one rocket attack reached Ashdod, 20 mi (32 km) from Gaza). The extent of the destruction and number of non-Hamas deaths resulting from the fighting led to criticism of Israel, and both Israel and Hamas were accused by human rights groups of committing war crimes.

Parliamentary elections in Feb., 2009, resulted in a narrow plurality for Kadima and significant gains for Likud and other right-wing parties. Likud leader and former prime minister Netanyahu forged a largely right-wing coalition (the Labor party also joined the government), and became prime minister in April.

Israel's continuing approval of new construction in the West Bank led to U.S. criticism in Nov., 2009, that Israel was frustrating peace negotiations. The government subsequently suspended new construction for 10 months, but the exclusion of East Jerusalem from the moratorium and the continuing construction of buildings already begun was denounced by the Palestinians. When the moratorium ended in Sept., 2010, there had been little progress if any in negotiations, and a year later the Palestinian Authority unsuccessfully sought recognition from, and full membership in, the United Nations. Israel was widely condemned internationally for a deadly raid in May, 2010, on a Turkish-organized convoy that was seeking to challenge Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip. The raid, which occurred in international waters, significantly strained Israel's already increasingly difficult relations with Turkey. Relations were not fully normalized again until Nov., 2016.

In May, 2012, after Netanyahu proposed early elections for Sept., 2012, Kadima joined the governing coalition, but it withdrew two months later in objection to a proposed replacement for an unconstitutional law that permitted students in religious studies to defer military service. In October the Knesset was dissolved and early elections called for Jan., 2013. In Nov., 2012, Israeli air strikes against the Gaza Strip, including one that killed the Hamas military chief, sparked the most intense cross-border attacks with Palestinian forces in the Gaza Strip since early 2009. After the Palestinian Authority received de facto recognition as an independent state from the UN General Assembly in Dec., 2012, the Israeli government authorized the development of thousands of new settler homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Beginning in 2013 Israel launched air strikes against forces in Syria allied with Assad in the civil war there.

In the 2013 elections the Likud alliance won a plurality but lost a quarter of the seats it had held. A center-right coalition government was formed in March, with Netanyahu again as prime minister; it was the first Israeli government in nearly three decades that did not include an ultra-Orthodox Jewish party. In mid-2013, U.S.-brokered peace talks resumed, but by Apr., 2014, they had essentially collapsed amid increased demands from Israel on retaining areas in the West Bank, Israeli approval for new settlements in the West Bank, a stalled Israeli prisoner release program, and a Palestinian bid for further recognition from UN agencies.

Israel blamed Hamas for the murder of three teenage settlers in the West Bank in June, 2014; its air strikes against Hamas and the Gaza Strip in July sparked a cycle of retaliatory attacks involving Hamas rocket attacks on Israel and Israeli air raids in Gaza, and Israeli forces entered Gaza in a ground offensive. A cease-fire was agreed to in August. Political tensions in the government led to the dismissal of centrist ministers in Dec., 2014, and parliament was subsequently dissolved. In the Mar., 2015., elections Likud won a plurality, with one fourth of the Knesset seats and roughly one fourth of the vote, about what it won in 2013. Netanyahu formed a largely right-wing coalition government in May; it was strengthened by the inclusion of a sixth party a year later.

In the second half of 2015, following the firebombing of a Palestinian home, a series of clashes and of attacks against Israelis erupted in the West Bank and Israel; the attacks continued into 2016. In 2017 Netanyahu's goverment approved guidelines that allowed the largely unconstrained building of new housing in existing West Bank settlements; it also moved forward with new Israeli housing in East Jerusalem. U.S. President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital in Dec., 2017, was praised by Israeli leaders but denounced by Palestinians.

In the first half of 2018, Israeli strikes against Iranian forces in Syria led to a rocket attack on the Golan Heights and a subsequent Israeli retaliation against Iranian targets in Syria. Hamas mounted mass marches against the Israeli-Gaza border in March–May; more than 100 Gazans were killed and thousands wounded by Israeli fire. In late May, the marches were followed by exchanges of shelling and bombardment by Gaza militants and Israeli forces until a cease-fire was established. A second outbreak of such exchanges occurred in July, and in November an Israeli undercover incursion into Gaza resulted in several days of intense fighting. Meanwhile, in July. 2018, the Knesset adopted an alteration of Israel's basic law that emphasized the Jewishness of the state of Israel; the change provoked protests from Israeli Arabs and Druze.

Strains in Netanyahu's coalition led to early elections in Apr., 2019, when Likud won a narrow plurality, but Netanyahu was unable to cobble together a majority. Elections held in September led to a largely similar result, and a coalition government again proved difficult to form. New elections in March, 2020, again led to a divided Knesset, but opposition leader Benny Gantz agreed (April) to form a coalition with Netanyahu in which the two would alternate as prime minister. During 2019 there were again conflicts with Gaza and with Hezbollah in Lebanon, and also air strikes, increasingly involving drones, against bases belonging to Iranian-backed forces in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.

In Jan., 2020, a peace plan proposal from U.S. President Trump that would consign large areas of the West Bank to Israel and create several separate Palestinian enclaves within Israel was rejected by Palestinians and did not lead to negotiations, and subsequent expectations that Israel would annex such areas led to increased tensions with Palestinians and internationally. Subsequently, however, the United States helped broker agreements (signed in September) between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in which the Arab nations recognized Israel. In return, Israel suspended its plans for annexation, but additional Israeli settlements in the West Bank were approved later in the year. Additional recognition agreements were subsequently signed with Morocco and Sudan. In Dec., 2020, the coalition government failed to pass a budget and collapsed, forcing new elections. In early 2021, there was renewed tension between Israel and Hamas, leading to 11 days of fighting, resulting in great physical damage and loss of life in the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu finally was ousted from his 12 consecutive-year run as prime minister by his former aide, Naftali Bennett, who formed a fragile coalition government including eight different parties from the far left to the ultraconservative. Bennett was elected by a single vote in the Israeli parliament in early June 2021.


See J. García-Granados, The Birth of Israel (1948); D. Ben-Gurion, Israel: Years of Challenge (1965); H. M. Sachar, A History of Israel (2 vol., 1976–87); E. Orni and E. Efrat, The Geography of Israel (4th rev. ed. 1980); C. Herzog, The Arab-Israeli Wars (1982); S. McBride, ed., Israel in Lebanon (1983); S. Segev, 1949: The First Israelis (1986);T. Parker, The Road to Camp David (1989); B. Morris, Righteous Victims (rev. ed. 2001) and The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949 (rev. ed. 2004); G. Gorenberg, The Accidental Empire (2006); L. Stein, The Making of Modern Israel, 1948–1967 (2009); I Peleg and D. Waxman, Israel's Palestinians (2011); H. Lazar, Out of Palestine: The Making of Modern Israel (2011); I. Black, Enemies and Neighbors: Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel, 1917–2017 (2017).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Israel is a state in the Middle East, located in western Asia on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bounded by Lebanon on the north, Syria on the northeast, Jordan on the east, and Egypt on the southwest. It also borders on the territory set apart by the United Nations in 1947 for the creation of an Arab state. The area within the boundaries set by the resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations of Nov. 29, 1947-, on the partition of Palestine is 14,000 sq km, but along with the territory seized during the Arab-Israeli War of 1948–49 the territory amounts to 20,700 sq km (see below: Historical survey). Population, 3 million (1971). The main economic and cultural center of Israel is the city of Tel Aviv. Governmental and official institutions of Israel are located in the western part of Jerusalem, which Israel’s government proclaimed the capital of the country in 1950 despite the UN resolution of Nov. 29, 1947. Administratively, Israel is divided into six districts.

Israel is a republic. There is no constitution, in the sense of a single legal act; the foundations of the system of government are regulated by several legislative enactments, such as the Provisional Law of 1949, the Nationality Law of 1952, the Knesset Law of 1958, and the Fundamental Law of the President of the State of 1964. The lack of a constitution and of a law on the rights of citizens gives the ruling circles of Israel extensive opportunities for political tyranny. Numerous repressive enactments serve this same end; these include emergency laws, introduced in 1945 by the British authorities and still in effect. The head of state is the president, elected by the parliament (Knesset) for four years. The president’s powers are limited. Absolute power belongs to the government (cabinet), headed by the prime minister, who is accorded enormous powers. The government directs the foreign policy of Israel, prepares the budget, controls finances and the economy, supervises the execution of the laws and enactments of the government by administrative institutions, and coordinates the activities of these institutions.

The highest legislative body is the unicameral parliament; it consists of 120 deputies, elected by the people for four years. All citizens 18 and over are accorded the vote.

The local bodies of government are urban municipal councils and rural district councils, elected for four years.

The judicial system consists of secular and religious courts (rabbinical courts and, for the Arab population, sftaria). The system of secular courts (district, municipal, and magistrates’ courts) is headed by a supreme court. The rabbinical courts, whose competence includes questions of marriage and the family and cases involved with the practice of worship, operate on the basis of the archaic, reactionary principles of the Talmud.


The narrow strip of maritime coastal plain gives way in the east to plateaus (elevation, 500–1,000 m, reaching 1,208 m), which are broken by steep slopes toward the deep fault trough of Ghor (al-Ghor) and its southern extension, Wadi al-Arabah. The surface of the plateaus is composed primarily of limestones (karst is well developed), sandstones, and basalts. The waters of the Dead Sea are rich in potassium, sodium, and bromine salts. There are deposits of phosphorites, quartz sands, clays, marble, copper, iron ore, and peat and small deposits of oil and gas in the Negev desert.

The climate is subtropical, relatively moist in the north and semidesert and desert in the south and in depressions. The summers are hot (July and August temperatures, 24°-28°C; to 36°C in the Ghor) and the winters, warm (January temperatures, 6°-14°C; to 18°C to the southwest of the Dead Sea). On the shore of the Dead Sea, in the Ghor valley, and in the Negev, a total of 100–200 mm of precipitation falls annually, with totals of less than 100 mm in some places; in the north, on the plateau, 600–800 mm falls annually, and 400–800 mm falls on the plain near the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the precipitation occurs during the winter. The territory of Israel is poor in surface waters. The upper course of the Jordan River is located in the northeast, flowing through the Ghor. Many of the rivers dry up or decrease sharply in flow in the summer; wadis are prevalent in the south. Springs and wells are exploited and seawater is desalinized. Up to 80 percent of the water used is expended on irrigation.

The soils are cinammonic, mountain gray-cinammonic, and sierozem; they are gray-brown desert soils in the south. In the mountains, maquis and garigue are prevalent; almost no woods remain (evergreen oaks and Aleppo pine predominate). In the south there are semideserts and deserts, including the Negev and the Elusa (rocky deserts, halophytic assemblages, halophytic meadows). Mammals encountered include the striped hyena, jackal, daman, and rodents; there are desert-steppe species of birds and many reptiles.

The natural regions are the coastal plain, the plateaus (block-folded, highly peneplained mountains), and the tectonic basins of Ghor and Wadi al-Arabah.


Jews make up more than 85 percent of the population (1970); Arabs (14.6 percent) and a small number of Armenians make up the rest. Arabs are subjected to harsh racial discrimination. More than half of the Jewish population is made up of immigrants from Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. The various ethnic groups of the Jewish population of Israel are unequal in terms of social position. The sabras (Jews born in Israel) enjoy the special confidence of the chauvinist ruling circles: next in position are the Ashkenazim (immigrants from Europe). Jewish immigrants from the countries of Asia and Africa are subjected to discrimination. The official language is Hebrew; however, some Jews do not know it, and Yiddish, Ladino (close to Spanish), Arabic, English, and other languages are used in everyday life. Jewish believers practice Judaism. The Arabs are Sunni Muslims, although some are Druze and Christians. The Armenians are Christians. The ancient Hebrew luni-solar calendar is official; the new year arrives between September 5 and October 5 (thus, Oct. 1, 1970, was the beginning of the year 5731 from the “creation of the world”; Sept. 20, 1971, the beginning of the year 5732). The Gregorian calendar is also used.

Between 1948 and 1970 (particularly between 1948 and 1951) the Jewish population grew through immigration by more than 1.3 million (as of 1970, 46.8 percent had come from Europe and America and 53.2 percent from Asia and Africa). Encouraged by international Zionist circles with the slogan of gathering all Jews to their “ancestral land,” immigration to Israel has a clearly expressed political character and serves the expansionist goals of Israel and world Zionism. However, between 1948 and 1970 more than 200,000 people (15 percent of the number of immigrants) left Israel. In 1970 the economically active population was 963, 200, of which 32.6 percent worked in industry, construction, and public works, 18.2 percent in commerce, banking, and insurance institutions, 32.9 percent in services, 8.8 percent in agriculture, fishing, and forestry, and 7.5 percent in transportation and communications. In 1970 the number of wage workers, including members of kibbutzim and their dependents, totaled 792,500 (82.4 percent of the economically active population). The number of unemployed in that year came to 38, 200. Population density in the district of Tel Aviv was 5,200 per sq km (1970) and in the desert regions of the Negev, 14.7 per sq km. Over 82 percent of the population (1970) lived in cities and urban-type settlements. The largest cities (1970) are Tel Aviv-Jaffa (384,000), Haifa (217, 100), Jerusalem (western portion, 200,300 in 1968), and Ramat Gan (115, 500).

The state of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, on the basis of the Nov. 29, 1947, resolution of the General Assembly of the UN. Under the resolution, Palestine, which was under the mandate of Great Britain, was proclaimed independent and its territory was divided into two independent states, Arab and Jewish. Both states were to have democratic constitutions ensuring the rights of the national minorities in each. The territory of the Jewish state was set at 14,000 sq km (about 56 percent of the area of Palestine), with a mixed population of 498,000 Jews and 497,000 Arabs (including 90,000 Bedouin). The city of Jerusalem was set apart as an independent administrative unit with a special international regime under the administration of the UN. Immediately after the proclamation of the state of Israel the Jewish big bourgeoisie, closely linked to international Zionism, came to power. The provisional government established in May 1948 included members of Zionist parties exclusively. The very first act of the government, the Declaration of Independence, proclaimed the doctrine of Zionism as the official ideology and policy of the Israeli state.

As a result of the policies of the imperialist powers (the USA and Great Britain) and international Zionist circles, the Arab-Israeli War of 1948–49 broke out after the proclamation of the state of Israel. In the course of the war Israel captured the greater part (6, 700 sq km) of the territory that the UN resolution had set aside for the Palestinian Arab state, which thereby was not established; Israel also took the western portion of Jerusalem. Thus, despite the UN resolution of Nov. 29, 1947, Israel expanded its territory to include four-fifths of the area of mandated Palestine. Both before the formation of Israel and the outbreak of the war and during the course of the war itself, Zionist terror led to the mass destruction of Arabs and the expulsion of nearly a million Arabs from the territory of Israel and from the Arab portion of Palestine that it had seized. The problem of Palestinian refugees emerged—a problem that, because of Israel’s unaltering refusal to implement the UN resolution of Dec. 11,1948 (on the right of refugees to return to their homeland or, if they choose, to receive material compensation), became one of the most important issues complicating the Middle East crisis. In 1949, Israel signed temporary armistice agreements with Egypt (February 24), Lebanon (March 23), Jordan (April 3), and Syria (July 20). Through the fault of the Israeli ruling circles these agreements were not replaced by peace treaties. In January 1950, notwithstanding the UN resolution of Nov. 29, 1947, the government of Israel declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel. The major powers—Great Britain, the USSR, the USA, and France—and many other states did not recognize Israel’s actions with respect to Jerusalem. The first parliamentary elections were held in January 1949 in the context of the war, the kindling of racist propaganda, and the persecution of democratic forces. The Zionist Mapai became the chief ruling party. Violating the UN resolution on the adoption of a democratic constitution, the government of Israel refused to introduce any constitution. It began to conduct a policy of unrestrained chauvinism, ever-increasing expansionism, and strengthening of its close alliance with imperialism—especially with the imperialist circles of the USA, which were attempting, with the aid of the reactionary forces of Israel, to consolidate their position in the Middle East and to weaken the anti-imperialist struggle of the Arab peoples.

Israel was included in all American “aid” programs, and the fourth point of the Truman Doctrine was extended to include Israel. Under an agreement with the USA (1952) concluded on the basis of the Mutual Security Act of 1951, the ruling circles of Israel were essentially obligated to take part in any military and other actions of the USA in the Middle East. The position of foreign (particularly American) capital was strengthened. In the early 1950’s the government of Israel adopted laws granting great privileges to foreign capital.

The government of Israel implemented a policy of rapprochement with the militarist circles of the Federal Republic of Germany. Under a 1952 agreement between Israel and the FRG, Israel by 1966 had received from West Germany $822 million in so-called reparations and more than $1.7 billion in restitution as total compensation for the losses inflicted upon European Jews (including Jews living in the countries of Eastern Europe) by fascist Germany during World War II (1939–45). The deal on reparations (which were spent basically for military needs) had political goals: the Zionist rulers of Israel attempted, without any foundation, to secure for themselves the right to represent the interests of the Jews of all countries and to secure a possible alliance with NATO. Under an agreement of 1960, West Germany began to supply Israel with weapons and to grant it loans (about $700 million by 1967). The government of Israel militarized the country intensively through arms supplied from the USA, Great Britain, and the FRG.

Relying on international imperialist and Zionist forces, the ruling circles of Israel began active preparations in the 1950’s for aggression against the Arab countries. Border conflicts with the Arab countries that arose between 1953 and 1955 through Israel’s fault took the form of armed clashes in the regions of Qibya (October 1953), Gaza (February 1955), and Lake Tiberias (December 1955). The anti-Soviet policies of the Israeli government and Zionist terrorist actions (in particular, the explosion of a bomb on the grounds of the Soviet mission) resulted in the decision of the Soviet government to break off diplomatic relations with Israel in February 1953 (established in 1948; reestablished in July 1953). In 1956, along with Great Britain and France, Israel unleashed aggression against Egypt. Israel associated itself with the Eisenhower Doctrine in May 1957. The ruling circles of Israel cooperated with the USA and Great Britain during their intervention in Lebanon and Jordan in 1958.

The intensification of domestic reaction was accompanied, beginning in the late 1950’s, by a sharp struggle for power within the bourgeois militarist clique. D. Ben-Gurion (prime minister between 1948 and 1953 and from 1955 to 1963, with an interruption in 1961) and his associates, representing the most extreme forces, strove to consolidate his personal power and strengthen the dictatorship of the Jewish Zionist big bourgeoisie. The influence of the clergy (the rabbinate) on Israel’s domestic and foreign policy increased.

Beginning in the early 1960’s, Israel actively prepared for new aggression against the Arab countries. A sharp exacerbation of Arab-Israeli relations resulted from a unilateral act of Israel— drawing off a portion of the water of the Jordan River (June 1964). During this period, Israel provoked conflicts with its neighboring Arab states in every way possible and waged a “little war” against them. On June 2, 1967, a so-called government of national unity was established with the participation of extreme reactionary and extremist forces, and the government took the course of unleashing a large-scale war against the Arab countries. In preparing this war, Israel’s Zionist ruling clique pursued the goals of strengthening their own position within the country, realizing the expansionist program of Zionism (the creation of a “Greater Land of Israel”), and overthrowing progressive regimes in the Arab countries.

On June 5, 1967, with the cooperation of the forces of imperialism and international Zionism, Israel renewed aggression against the Arab countries. In the course of the war Israel’s troops occupied a substantial portion of the territories of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan (about 70,000 sq km, with a population of over 1 million Arabs) and annexed the eastern portion of Jerusalem. The government of the USSR came forward for the immediate cessation of aggression (declarations of June 5 and June 7, 1967). This demand was supported by other socialist countries (the Declaration of June 9) and by many Asian and African states.

At its sessions of June 5–9 the UN Security Council demanded of Israel a cessation of military action. However, with the connivance of the USA, the government of Israel continued its aggressive action. On June 10, 1967, the USSR, the People’s Republic of Hungary, the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, the People’s Republic of Poland, the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia broke off diplomatic relations with Israel. As a result of the decisive action of the USSR, other socialist countries, and progressive peoples throughout the world, the ruling circles of Israel were forced to submit to the resolutions of the Security Council and agree to a cease-fire (June 10, 1967). They refused, however, to withdraw their troops from the captured Arab territories.

On Nov. 22, 1967, the Security Council adopted a resolution concerning a political settlement to the Middle East crisis. The resolution provided for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from all occupied territories and the achievement of a just resolution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees. However, the government of Israel ignored this resolution, and its aggressive action against the Arab countries did not end. Israel’s armed forces repeatedly carried out attacks against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan and invaded the territory of Lebanon.

A regime of the harshest terror was established in the regions occupied by Israel in 1967, including mass arrests of Arabs and the destruction of Arab villages. The government of Israel set about implementing measures aimed at annexing the captured Arab lands (expulsion of the Arab population, settlement of the Arab lands by Jews, and the creation of paramilitary settlements). The number of Palestinian Arab refugees reached 1, 500,000 by the beginning of the 1970’s. Israel’s actions in the occupied territories were condemned by the UN Human Rights Commission, which classified them as war crimes and pointed out that attempts to annex the territories were illegal (resolutions of Dec. 23, 1971, and Mar. 24, 1972).

Israel received enormous subsidies from the USA and international Zionist organizations to further its policy of aggression (more than $2.5 billion between 1967 and 1970). In November 1971, the USA signed an agreement with Israel to supply it with technical information and know-how for the domestic production of American-style weapons. Military expenditures increased and the term of military service was lengthened. Increased militarization adversely affected the Israeli economy; inflation increased sharply, accompanied by a devaluation of the Israeli pound (1971). Taxes increased substantially (in 1971, Israel had the highest taxes in the world) and the position of the working people deteriorated (about one-sixth of the population lived at or near poverty level).

The Arabs have been placed in an even more difficult position in Israel than have the Jewish working masses: military control has been established in Arab areas, Arabs have been deprived of the right of free movement, and wages for the Arab worker are lower than for the Jewish worker. The best lands have been taken away from the Arabs.

In the context of political reaction, the role of the militarists and of the extremist forces in Israel’s domestic and foreign policy has increased; the clergy, who exert enormous influence on all aspects of life in Israel, have strengthened their position, and repression has been increased against democratic and progressive forces.

In 1968 the Zionist parties of right-wing “socialists” and the bourgeois Zionist Rafi Party merged into an organization that calls itself the Israel Labor Party. An extremist-reactionary government in which the Israel Labor Party held the majority came to power in 1969. The government (particularly its militarist wing and right-wing elements) and the clergy supported annexation of the Arab territories occupied by Israel, further expansion of Israel’s ties with imperialism, and the transformation of Israel into a theocratic state. The policies of the ruling circles of Israel began to acquire a racist character. In March 1970 the government of Israel adopted an essentially racist law on “who is a Jew.” On Mar. 16, 1972, the Knesset adopted a resolution on the “incontestability of the historic rights of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel,” which expressed the expansionist goals of Zionism—the creation of a “Greater Land of Israel.” The Israeli government began yet more extensively to resort to terrorist measures of reprisal against democratic forces. It proclaimed an official policy of strengthening the alliance with international Zionism in every way possible (the “governmental program” of 1969). International Zionist congresses held in Israel after 1967 supported Israel’s expansionist plans.

Disregarding the Nov. 22, 1967, resolution of the UN Security Council, the government of Israel, headed by Prime Minister G. Meir (1969–74; from 1974, Y. Rabin), repeatedly proclaimed its refusal to withdraw Israeli troops from the Arab territories occupied in June 1967 and systematically hampered the mission of special UN representative G. Jarring for the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Israeli government rejected Egypt’s 1971 peace initiative, which provided for a partial withdrawal of Israeli troops from the east bank of the Suez Canal in order to restore international navigation on the canal, to be followed by their withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories. The government of Israel refused to implement the Nov. 5, 1970, and Dec. 13, 1971, resolutions of the UN General Assembly on the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East; these resolutions insisted on the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from the Arab territories occupied by Israel in June 1967 and the renunciation by Israel of all territorial claims. The ruling circles of Israel began persistently to seek their country’s inclusion in NATO. Supported by the imperialist circles of the USA and international Zionism, the government of Israel stepped up its anticommunist and anti-Soviet policies.

The government of Israel carried out a number of measures to strengthen its racist-militarist alliance with the Republic of South Africa, render aid to the Portuguese colonialists, and maintain ties with the Saigon regime in South Vietnam.

As a result of the Israeli government’s aggressive policy and the unsettled state of the Middle East conflict, a fresh armed conflict broke out between Israel and Egypt and Syria on October 6, 1973. Israel suffered substantial damage in the course of the hostilities. The October War and its consequences demonstrated the untenable nature of the Israeli leadership’s political and military strategy. On the basis of the Security Council resolutions of October 1973, the USSR and the USA, acting under the aegis of UN Secretary General K. Waldheim, convened the Geneva Middle East Settlement Conference (December 21, 1973). An agreement was reached on the disengagement of Israeli, Egyptian, and Syrian forces in 1974.

The reactionary antinational, antipopular, and chauvinist policy of the government of Israel and the war hysteria it has stirred up complicate the struggle of those forces in Israel that oppose the policy of the ruling circles. The Israel Communist Party (Maki) stands in the first ranks of fighters for peace, social progress, and the vital interests of the working masses and supports the de-Zionization and democratization of Israel. The 16th (1969) and 17th (1972) congresses of the Israel Communist Party adopted resolutions aimed at the creation in Israel of a broad front of all forces fighting the antinational policies of the ruling circles and fighting for a peaceful political settlement to the Middle East conflict through the complete implementation of the Nov. 22, 1967, Security Council resolution.


Ivanov, K. P., and Z.S. Sheinis. Gosudarstvo Izrai’, ego polozhenie i politika, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1959.
Leonidov, A. Za kulisami izrail’skoi politiki. Moscow, 1959.
Andreev, S.A. IzraiV. Moscow, 1962.
Demchenko, P. Arabskii Vostok v chas ispytannii. Moscow, 1967.
Nikitina, G.S. Gosudarstvo IzraiV. Moscow, 1968.
Ivanov, Iu. S. Ostorozhno. sionizm! Moscow, 1969.


Political parties. The Israel Labor Party (Mifleget ha-Avodah ha-Yisra’elit) was established in 1968 as a result of the merger of three Zionist parties—Mapai (Mifleget Po’alei Erets Yisra’el, the Israel Workers’ Party; a right-wing social-democratic party founded in 1930), Rafi (Rashmat Po’alei Yisra’el, the Israel Workers’ List, an ultranationalist party formed in 1965 as a result of a split from Mapai of a group of its former members), and Akhdut ha-Avodah Tsion (Unity of Labor-Workers of Zion, a right-wing part of Mapam, separated from the latter in 1954; extremist with respect to the Arab countries). The United Workers’ Party (Mifleget ha-Po’alim ha-Me’ukhedet, or Mapam), founded in 1948, is a Zionist social-democratic party. Since 1969 it has formed a common parliamentary bloc with the Israel Labor Party. The Liberal Party, founded in 1961, is a bourgeois Zionist party. In 1965 there was a schism in the party: the majority, along with the Kherut Movement (Freedom Movement, founded in 1948; an ultrareactionary pro-fascist Zionist party), established the Gakhal, a right-wing parliamentary bloc, while the minority formed the so-called Independent Liberal Party. The ultrareactionary, racist National Religious Party was founded in 1956 as a result of the merger of the Zionist religious parties Mizrakhi and Ha-Po’el Ha-Mizrakhi. Agudat Yisra’el and Po’alei Agudat Yisra’el are orthodox religious non-Zionist parties. The Israel Communist Party was founded in 1919 as the Socialist Workers’ Party of Palestine. It was renamed the Palestine Communist Party in 1921 and renamed the Israel Communist Party in 1948. A split took place in the party in 1965. The Mikunis-Sneh faction, the grouping that broke off, deviated from the principles of Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism and supported the government’s position in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Trade unions. Histadrut (the General Federation of Labor) was founded in 1920 and has more than 1 million members (1971). It is under the influence of the Israel Labor Party. It owns a considerable number of industrial, construction, and other enterprises (in many cases, with the participation of private capital).

General state of the economy. Israel is an agrarian-industrial country, highly militarized, and dependent on foreign capital. The share in the national income (without deductions for amortization, and by 1970 prices) of agriculture, fishing, and forestry is about 6 percent (8.4 percent in 1967); of mining and manufacturing, 26.2 percent (22.5); of construction and municipal works, 10.6 percent (8); of transportation and communications, 8.5 percent (9); of banking, and insurance, 12.5 percent (12.5); of trade and services, 16.5 percent (17.7); and of receipts from state and other institutions, 19.7 percent (22).

The stimulation of industrial development is aimed primarily at creating military potential and developing the branches of industry directly linked with military production. Large sums from both the official budget and the special secret budget are spent on military needs. Military expenditures increased by a factor of ten between 1966 and June 1970. In 1970 these expenditures amounted to about 40 percent of the budget (or about 30 percent of the value of the gross national product). The military-industrial complex is represented (1972) by financial groups in the Koor concern, the investment companies of the Israel Discount Bank (one of the three largest banks in the country), and G.U.S. Industries (Great Universal Stores). An enormous influx of capital and skilled labor ensure comparatively high growth rates for agriculture (5.4 times between 1948–49 and 1969–70) and industry (more than five times between 1950 and 1969). Between 1965 and 1967 there was a significant economic recession, prompted by continual inflation, the chronic imbalance of income and expenditures (particularly military-related expenditures), increased dependence on foreign capital, and preparation for war. The recession gave way in 1967 to an upsurge as a result of redoubled militarization of the economy (development of the war industry) and employment of cheap Arab labor from the occupied territories. Prompted by the enormous growth of military expenditures and increased dependence on foreign capital, crisis phenomena appeared in Israel’s economy in the early 1970’s.

The economy of Israel is developing primarily through foreign financing. Capital imports between 1948 and 1970 amounted to over $12 billion (including over $4 billion between 1967 and 1970) from “aid” and loans from the USA, various subsidies from Zionist organizations, the conversion of Israeli loans abroad, private investments, and payments from the Federal Republic of Germany (reparations and restitutions). Private foreign capital—primarily American but also British and West German—holds a dominant place in the economy, partially through state enterprises sold to foreign monopolies. Powerful foreign monopolistic associations are also active—for example, the PEC Israel Economic Corporation and the American Israel Corporation. The share of national capital amounts to about one-third of the total capital investment. The relative importance of the state capitalist sector has declined perceptibly; the share of state and “public” financing (for example, the Jewish National Fund) in the total capital investment in the economy amounted to 54 percent in 1958 but only 41 percent in 1968.

Agriculture. The greater part of the cultivable land is the property of the state and the Zionist colonial trusts, which lease land to agricultural cooperatives (kibbutzim and moshavim) and to well-to-do individual colonists. The basic form of land tenure is the group lease, but there are individual farms as well. Dependence on the supply and sales monopolies, exploitative lease conditions (the high cost of rent, insurance fees, and water), and usurious credit create a situation in which the lessees (primarily the kibbutzim, but the moshavim as well) generally find themselves in a dependent state of chronic and increasing debt. The agricultural cooperatives run by the Zionist colonial trusts are capitalist enterprises. The implementation of certain principles of collectivism in the kibbutzim serves only as a cover for the exceptionally harsh collective exploitation of members of the cooperatives as a whole. American food “assistance” (agricultural surpluses from the USA) has a negative influence on the development of agriculture, involving a curtailment of local production in a number of branches of agriculture. Israel cultivates only 21.2 percent (1970–71) of the total land area (including the captured territories); about 40 percent is under pasture. About 42 percent of the cultivated land is irrigated (in the extreme northeast of the country). Cereals and other field crops occupy 64.9 percent of the cultivated land; citrus and fruit plantations, 20 percent; commercial crops and vegetables, 8.6 percent; and other crops, 6.5 percent (see Table 1 for data on the area and yield of the principal agricultural crops).

Table 1. Area and yield of main agricultural crops
1Yearly average
Source: Statistical Abstract of Israel, 1970–71.
(thou ha)
(thou tons)
Sugar beets64.51253237
Citrus fruits42.23117001,262

The main agricultural crop is citrus fruits; along with other fruits, they make up approximately 30 percent of the total value of the agricultural produce. The cereals planted are mostly wheat, barley, sorghum, and corn; the industrial crops are sugar beets, peanuts, cotton, flax, and tobacco. Vegetable and potato production and poultry farming completely supply the demands of the domestic market, and some of the produce is exported. Olive trees are cultivated (primarily on Arab farms). Citrus plantations, orchards, and vineyards predominate on the maritime coastal plain; plantings of cereal crops in combination with vegetable growing and livestock raising (poultry farming and cattle raising) predominate in the north (Galilee) and in the southwestern section of the coastal plain; pasture livestock-raising (sheep and goats) dominates in the northern part of the Negev; and seminomadic and nomadic livestock-raising (sheep, goats, and camels) is found primarily in the south and southeast of the country. There were 17,300 tractors in 1970. Livestock raising is of less importance than field-crop cultivation and citrus farming. There were 251,000 head of cattle, 188,500 sheep, 135,500 goats, 10,000 camels, and 9, 800,000 domestic fowl (chickens and ducks) in 1970. The Jewish farms raise mostly poultry and dairy cattle; the Arab farms, primarily sheep and some camels. The country does not supply its needs for a number of basic products, and many are imported (particularly cereals, but also beef, butter, and sugar). Arab farms are subjected to harsh discrimination; since 1948, more than 1 million dunams (1 dunam = 0.1 ha) of the best lands have been confiscated from the Arabs as a result of the accelerated process of dispossession carried out by the government. Consequently, the proportion of Arabs employed in agriculture had declined to 57.2 percent (of the total number of Arabs) by 1970, as compared to 75 percent in 1959. While the average plot of the Jewish farmer is 10.8 dunams, the average plot of the Arab fellah is 2.2 dunams (8.4 dunams prior to 1948). The discriminatory measures applied to the Arab population by the government (dispossession of land, lack of provision of water for farming, meager road construction) result in low productivity for Arab farms. In 1970 the Arab agricultural population made up 48 percent of the total agricultural population of the country, but the production of Arab farms was only 5 percent of the country’s total agricultural production. As a rule, Arab farms are conducted on the extensive principle. Irrigated land amounts to only 5.5 percent of the land cultivated on Arab farms, as against 51.2 percent on Jewish farms.

Industry. Light industry—especially textiles, food, and paper —has received priority development. The structure of industry can be characterized by branches by the following data (for 1969–70, as percentages of the total value of produce, taking into account enterprises with more than five workers): extractive industries, 6.8; light industry (textiles, clothing, and leather), 15; food, 22.1; woodworking, paper, and printing, 8.6; chemicals, rubber, and petroleum refining, 11; diamond working, 6.2; metalworking, 8.2; electrical and transportation equipment, 11.7; other machine-building, 5.5; metallurgy, 3.7; and others, 1.2. Characteristic of the country’s industry is the predominance of small-scale and very small-scale enterprises of the handicraft and artisan type and small workshops (with less than 50 workers). These constituted 96 percent of all enterprises in 1969–70. They accounted for 41.1 percent of the total work force and about one-third (1966–67) of all the goods produced. A concentration of production is occurring at the same time: over 30 percent of all workers are concentrated in large plants and factories (plants with more than 300 workers), which constitute 0.6 percent of all enterprises. About 93 percent of all enterprises belong to private capital. The electrotechnical, chemical, machine-building, aircraft, clothing (for the needs of the army), and rubber (tire) industries have developed at particularly accelerated rates since Israel embarked on its aggressive policy. The value of the output of the war industry doubled for 1968–69. The rates of development in the civil branches of industry have dropped off (for example, the diamond processing industry), and in some cases production has been curtailed (the leather industry).

Industry and power engineering in Israel are based to a considerable degree on the use of imported raw materials. The geographical distribution of industrial enterprises is highly uneven: nearly 60 percent is concentrated in Tel Aviv and Haifa.

The total established capacity of electric power plants (1970, all thermal-electric) is over 1,200,000 kilowatts. The mining industry is not highly developed. Potassium salts, common salt, and bromine are mined in the Dead Sea, quartz sands and clay in the Negev, and phosphorites (994,000 tons in 1969) at Oron; small deposits of natural gas (134 million cu m in 1970) and peat are in the vicinity of Lake Huleh, oil (88,000 tons) to the southeast of Ashkelon, iron at Mount Ramon, copper ore near Mi-khrot-Timna, and gems in the neighborhood of Elat. In addition, in the Sinai peninsula, deposits of oil belonging to Egypt and temporarily captured by Israel are being exploited.

Tel Aviv and Haifa are the main centers of the textile industry. The food industry (canning, dairy, vegetable oil, flour milling, sugar) is most highly developed in Tel Aviv. Diamond processing is carried on primarily in Tel Aviv and Netanya. Enterprises of the chemical industry are found basically in Haifa, Hadera, and Tel Aviv (the production of superphosphates, sulfuric acid, dyes); an oil refinery with a capacity of up to 5.5 million tons is located in Haifa. Machine-building, metalworking, and the production of building materials is concentrated in Tel Aviv and its outskirts. Two atomic reactors are operating near Tel Aviv and Dimona. (See Table 2 on the main industrial products.)

Transportation. There are 795 km of railroads in Israel (1970-71)

Table 2. Output of main industrial products
Source: Statistical Abstract of Israel, 1970-71.
Electric power (billion kW-hr) ............
Potassium salts (K2O) (thou tons) ..........136869
Cotton cloth (thou tons) ............6.610.5
Superphosphates (thou tons) ...........82171
Cement (thou tons) ..........380.18061,384
Canned fruits (thou tons) ..........1.06.658.3
Canned and pickled vegetables (thou tons)

and 9,300 km of highways (more than 4,000 km of which are paved). There are 266,200 motor vehicles (1970), 66,000 of which are trucks. The improvement of old oil pipelines and the construction of new ones to pump oil from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean was undertaken in Israel upon the closing of the Suez Canal after the Israeli aggression of 1967. Israel is attempting to use this to put pressure on Egypt and the other Arab countries. Oil pipelines are in operation from Elat to Haifa (400 km), Haifa to Tel Aviv (108 km), and Elat to Ashkelon (since 1970; 305 km). The merchant marine numbers 110 vessels with a total of 1.4 million gross registered tons (1970). Israel’s major ports are Haifa (55 percent of the freight turnover), Ashdod, and Elat. There is an international airfield near Tel Aviv in Lydda (Lod).

Foreign trade. A permanent deficit in the foreign-trade balance is characteristic ($675 million in 1970); this deficit is increasing, primarily because of the import of arms, raw materials, and equipment for the war industry (it rose by a factor of three between 1967 and 1970). In 1970 imports were valued at $1, 451,000, 000, and exports, at $775,000, 000. The main import articles (as percentages of the value of imports, 1970) are machines and equipment (20), unprocessed diamonds (over 12), raw materials, chemicals and semifinished products (35), ships, planes, and automobiles (10.3), fuel (about 5), and foodstuffs. About 50 percent of the value of exports is provided (1970) by citrus fruits, canned fruits, and processed diamonds; chemicals provide about 10 percent. The main foreign-trade partners of Israel (1970) are the USA, with 21.2 percent of the value of foreign-trade turnover (22.3 percent of imports and 19.2 percent of exports); Great Britain, with 13.9 percent; West Germany, with 10.7 percent; and Belgium and France. At the end of 1970 Israel’s foreign debt reached $2.8 billion. The monetary unit is the Israeli lira (pound); 4.2 Israeli lirot equal US$1 (as of October 1971).


Nikitina, G.S. Gosudarstvo IzraiV. Moscow, 1968. G.S. Nikitina

The armed forces of Israel consist of ground forces, air force, navy, and reserves. The supreme organ of military leadership is the Defense Committee. Direct leadership of the armed forces is exercised by the minister of defense through the General Staff and the commanders of the army, air force, and navy. The country is divided into three military districts: Northern, Central, and Southern. The army is recruited on the basis of a conscription law and through the enlistment of Jewish volunteers and to some extent of volunteers of other nationalities. Only Jewish men and unmarried women serve in the reserves. The term of active military service is 36 months for men and 20 months for women. When fully mobilized, the armed forces total about 300,000 people. The ground forces (about 275,000) consist of infantry, mechanized and armored brigades, various artillery (mortar) divisions, and other subdivisions and units; there are more than 1,000 tanks, about 300 self-propelled guns, and 1,500 armored carriers. A substantial portion of Israel’s military equipment is of American manufacture; some is produced by Israel itself. The air force (over 17,000) has about 390 of the latest model combat planes of American and French manufacture and two batteries of Hawk antiaircraft rockets. The navy (about 8,000) has one destroyer, four submarines, 12 rocket launches, nine torpedo boats, one antiaircraft frigate, one escort ship, four patrol boats, and four landing ships.

Medicine and public health. In 1969 the birthrate per thousand inhabitants was 26.2 and the mortality rate, 7.0; infant mortality was 23.5 per thousand live births. The main causes of death are diseases of the cardiovascular system and malignant tumors. The most common infectious diseases are dysentery, viral hepatitis, and tuberculosis; incidence is higher among Arabs and among Jewish immigrants from Asia and Africa. There are natural focuses of cutaneous leishmaniasis and relapsing tick fever.

In 1969 there were 193 hospitals with 17,100 beds (5.9 beds per thousand inhabitants), including 39 state military hospitals with 9,700 beds. There were also about 100 outpatient institutions (polyclinics and public health centers). There were 6,900 working physicians, or one physician per 410 inhabitants; there were 1,300 dentists, 1,600 pharmacists, and 500 registered mid-wives. Doctors are trained by the medical schools at the universities in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Veterinary services. Tuberculosis, brucellosis, influenza, respiratory mycoplasmosis, Q fever, and certain other diseases are encountered among cattle and fowl in the northern and western (coastal) regions. In the eastern regions, natural-focal diseases (anthrax, piroplasmidosis, rabies, and listeriosis) and sheep pox are most common. Leptospirosis is found in all species in the western coastal region. Leukemia is prevalent among the cattle (especially in the improved European breeds). Paratuberculosis has been noted in the southern and eastern sections. There were about 260 veterinarians in Israel as of 1970. Scientific research is carried on in a number of veterinary laboratories.

In 1949 a law was adopted on compulsory elementary education without distinction as to sex, nationality, and religion. However, in actuality, the Arab population is subject to discrimination; schools for Arab children are extremely few in number, and entry to higher educational institutions is hampered to the utmost. In 1968, 10.4 percent of the Jewish population was illiterate; the figure was 42.8 percent among the Arab population.

The nature of instruction and education of the Jewish population is clearly nationalist and religious and subordinated to the goals of the reactionary ideology of Zionism. The inculcation of the youth with the chauvinist ideas of Judaism concerning the “special mission and exclusiveness” of the “Jewish nation” and its “historical rights to the Promised Land” is carried to the extreme. Much attention is also devoted to the militarization of education: boys and girls go through compulsory military training (three years and two years, respectively). The progressive public, headed by the Israel Communist Party, opposes the reactionary system of education and training of young people.

There are kindergartens (state and private) for children between the ages of three and five; the enrollment was 121,800 in 1970. Preschool institutions are extremely inadequate in areas settled by Arabs. Elementary school lasts six years (since 1969). Along with state secular schools (65.5 percent of the students in the 1970–71 school year), there are a large number of state religious schools (28 percent of the students) and private religious schools (6.5 percent of the students). Study of the Bible and Torah is compulsory in all schools. Hebrew is taught in Arab schools beginning with the third grade. There is a fee for secondary school. Secondary schools offer a six-year program (since 1969) and consist of two levels. The second level has two cycles —humanities and natural science. In the 1970–71 school year there were 477,900 students (including 89,800 Arabs) in elementary schools and 140,100 students (including 8,300 Arabs) in secondary schools. The four-year vocational-technical school is based on the pattern of the elementary school, and agricultural school is based on the pattern of the secondary school. In the 1970–71 school year there were 12,900 students, 4.8 percent Arabs, receiving vocational training. Teacher training is offered in pedagogical colleges and universities.

There are ten higher educational institutions (over 45,000 students in the 1970–71 academic year, 2 percent of whom were Arabs). There is a fee for study in higher educational institutions. The largest institutions are the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (founded in 1918; opened officially in 1925), the Tel Aviv University (founded in 1953), and the Israel Institute of Technology (or Technion, founded in 1912) in Haifa. Higher educational institutions in Israel are financed primarily by the Jewish Agency and also by Zionist organizations (basically those of the USA), which exert direct influence on and control of the system of education through the specially created Education Fund.

The largest libraries are the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem (founded in 1884; more than 2 million volumes) and the Tel Aviv University Library (founded in 1954; 250,000 volumes). The main museums are the Israel National Museum in Jerusalem (founded in 1965; includes the Archaeological Museum and the Betsalel Art Museum) and the Ha-Arets Museum in Tel Aviv (founded in 1958).


The National Council for Research and Development, the chairman of which is the primeminister, manages the scientific institutions. Scientific research is financed only partially by the state budget; a great proportion of the financing comes from investments and donations received from foreign Zionist organizations and Israeli and foreign firms. The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities was founded in 1959. A great deal of the scientific research is subordinate to the goals of militarization of the country.

The major scientific centers include the Weizmann Institute of Science (founded in 1934 in Rehovot), which conducts research in medicine, mathematics, physics, nuclear physics, radiospectroscopy, crystallography, optical spectroscopy, electronics, electrical engineering, instrument engineering, plastics, general biology, virology, and plant genetics. This institute, along with the Israel Atomic Energy Commission (founded in 1952 in Tel Aviv), has organized a center for the study of the use of radioisotopes in radiobiology. The commission supervises study of the methods of extracting uranium from the phosphorites of the Negev. It also has experimental reactors at its disposal. The purposes of nuclear research in Israel are primarily military. The Negev Institute for Arid Zone Research (founded in 1956) studies the mineral resources of the Negev and carries on research in plant and animal biology.

Mineral resources are studied and geological maps are compiled at the Geological Institute. The Institute for Petroleum Research and Geophysics (founded in 1957 in Holon) conducts research in seismography and gravimetry and surveys oil deposits. At the National and University Institute of Agriculture (founded in 1959 in Rehovot) work is conducted on soil science, plant physiology, and the mechanization of agriculture. The research institution at the Technion in Haifa does work in machine-building and other branches of technology. The National Physical Laboratory (founded in 1950 in Jerusalem) studies the possibilities of using solar energy for practical purposes. The mineral resources of the Dead Sea are studied in a special laboratory. The Israel Institute for Biological Research is involved in the study of epidemiology and public health. Diseases of the arid zone are studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and at the Institute for Arid Zone Research in the Negev, which are also involved in phosphorite prospecting in the Negev and in aspects of hydrogeology. A number of studies are subsidized by Israel’s Defense Ministry and by the USA and West Germany.

For the most part, Israel’s scientists are immigrants from Germany, France, and the USA.


Guide to World Science, vol. 9. London, 1970.
The Middle East and North Africa, 1968–69. London [1968].


In 1975, more than 400 newspapers and magazines were published in Israel. The most widely distributed are Ha-Arets, a right-wing bourgeois newspaper published since 1918 in Hebrew (circulation, more than 44,000); Al ha-Mishmar, published since 1943 in Hebrew (circulation, 25,000), the organ of Mapam; Da-var, published since 1925 in Hebrew (circulation, 40,000), the organ of Histadrut and under the control of the Israel Labor Party; Ha-Tsofeh, published since 1938 in Hebrew (circulation, 11,000), the organ of the National Religious Party; the Jerusalem Post, a progovernment newspaper published since 1932 in English (circulation, 41,000); Yedi’ot Akharonot, an evening newspaper published since 1939 in Hebrew (circulation, 85,000); Ma’ariv, a reactionary bourgeois evening newspaper published since 1948 in Hebrew (circulation, 118,000); Arakhim, a monthly theoretical journal published since 1969 in Hebrew, an organ of the Central Committee of the Israel Communist Party; Al-Darb, a monthly theoretical journal published since 1969 in Arabic, an organ of the Central Committee of the Israel Communist Party; Zu ha-Derekh, a weekly published since 1965 in Hebrew, an organ of the Central Committee of the Israel Communist Party; and Al-Ittihad, a semiweekly published since 1944 in Arabic, an organ of the Central Committee of the Israel Communist Party.

Radio broadcasting is managed by Shidurei Yisra’el, the Israel Broadcasting Authority, founded in 1968; Kol Yisra’el was in operation until 1968. There are a number of stations, and broadcasts are in 11 languages. Educational television broadcasts began in 1966, and a television center was established in 1968; broadcasts are in Hebrew and Arabic. All organs of propaganda, which are under the control of the government and the Zionist parties, serve the interests of the aggressive Israeli bourgeoisie and Zionism. The activities of these organs take an extremely anti-Soviet tone.

The literature and art of Israel have been developing within the context of the complex social contradictions and national conflicts that have been kindled by the ruling Israeli bourgeoisie. The domestic and foreign expansionist policies of the ruling circles of Israel, with their nationalist-Zionist ideology, leave their mark upon the cultural life of the country. Discrimination against the indigenous Arab population and contradictions in the interrelations of the various Jewish communities hinder the development of democratic currents in literature, the fine arts, theater, and cinematography.

The literature of Israel is written mostly in Hebrew. The official association of Israeli writers is the Association of Hebrew Writers, founded in the 1940’s. Its main organ is the journal Moznayim, published since 1934. The association does not admit Yiddish and Arabic authors. Many of the writers are in some degree influenced by the ideas propagandized by the Zionist leadership.

Writers who immigrated to Palestine long before the formation of the state of Israel and continued to write after 1948 include Sh. Agnon (1888–1970; Nobel Prize, 1966), A. Shlonsky (born 1900), and Leah Goldberg (1911–70). A group of writers who had grown up in Palestine appeared in Israeli literature by the 1950’s. Y. Mar (1921–68), Y. Amikhai (born 1924), T. Rivner (born 1924), and Y. Hendel (born 1925). Their works deal with the various social problems of Israeli society, life in the kibbutzim, the education of the youth, and discrimination against North African and Middle Eastern Jewish immigrants. Certain works of S. Yits’har (born 1916) condemn the racist attitude toward the Arabs. The influence of modernist Western literature and existential philosophy grew in the 1960’s. Loneliness, despair, alienation, and the flight from reality became major themes in the fiction of B. Tamuz(born 1919), N. Zakh(born 1930), A. Appelfeld (born 1932), and Dalia Ravikovitch (born 1936).

The problem of Jewish-Arab relations occupies a special place in Israeli literature. M. Avi-Sha’ul (born 1898), A. Penn (1906-72), Khaya Kadmon (1919–60), A. Nof (born 1914), and Ruth Levin (born 1929) treat this, like other social and political problems, from a progressive standpoint. Chauvinist reaction, anti-communism, and anti-Sovietism, whose main spokesmen in literature are U. Ts. Grinberg (born 1894), Y. Ratosh (born 1909), M. Shamir (born 1921), and, in the last years of his life, N. Alterman (1910–70), are also counteracted in the work of writers who have often protested against conformism and official extremist policies: A. Kenan, D. Ben-Amots, Y. Orpaz (born 1922), I. Lev (born 1833), and E. Ben-Ezer (born 1936). The literary journal Keshet is published in Hebrew.

Many of the founders of Israel’s Hebrew literature have also written in Yiddish, a language which the Zionist leadership long strove to force out of the cultural life of the country. Important exponents of the Yiddish literature of Israel include I. Zrubavel, M. Mann, I. Papiernikov, and P. Binetskii. The literary journal Di goldene keit appears in Yiddish. Literature in Arabic is represented by the poets Tawfik Ziyad (born 1926), Hanna abu Khan (born 1928), and Samih al-Qasim (born 1939) and the short-story writers Emil Habibi (born 1921) and Muhammad Ali Taha. The leading themes in the Arabic literature are the struggle for social progress, protest against the discriminatory policies of the Israeli authorities toward the Arab population of the country, and protest against the government’s militarist course.

For the most part, construction in Israel is subordinated to the requirements of the government and does not meet the acute need for housing produced by the influx of immigrants. Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Rehovot have been developing since the 1950’s. In addition, new cities are being created. Mass residential building is of the one- and two-story light construction type in the kibbutzim; the buildings are from six to nine stories (with loggias and balconies) in the cities. The houses are built of stone, brick, and reinforced concrete. Notable public and commercial buildings include the F. Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv (1957), the Beilin-son Hospital in Tel Aviv (1950–58), the Ha-Arets Museum of Mediterranean Art in Tel Aviv (1958–60’s), the hotel complex in Bat Yam (1968–69), and the Shalom Tower, a 36-story office and commercial building in Tel Aviv. Architecture in Israel is developing in the modern international architectural style.

In the fine arts, Jewish immigrants from various countries have brought with them the traditions of a variety of schools and tendencies, so that the general picture of development of artistic culture in Israel has a mixed character. Realistic currents are found at the Betsalel School of Arts and Crafts (founded in Jerusalem in 1906 by the artist B. Schatz); however, modernist currents of every description are predominant (the painters Ts. Meirovits, M. Janko, Y. Zaritsky).

The musical culture of Israel is a combination of the national musical culture of the Palestinian Jews and Arabs and the musical traditions brought by the Jewish immigrants. Performance and composition developed in the early 1950’s. Israeli composers have drawn upon both the musical folklore of the peoples of the eastern Mediterranean and contemporary modes. Many have been drawn to various avant-garde currents as well. The Israel Philharmonic was founded in 1936. An orchestra was organized under its auspices (other orchestras include the Ramat Gan Chamber Orchestra, the Haifa Symphony, and the Israel National Opera). The Inbal Dance Theater (founded in the 1950’s by S. Levi-Tannai), which popularizes the musical folklore of the Eastern (primarily Yemenite) Jews, is well known. A number of cities have musical societies (for example, the Israel Chamber Music Association and Jeunesse Musicale, which conducts educational work) and choral associations. Musicians are educated at the Shulamit Conservatoire in Tel Aviv, which was changed from a music school in 1950, at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem, and at the music department of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The International Harpists’ Competition has been held in Tel Aviv once every three years since 1959. The Israel Composers Association, founded in 1957, operates a music publishing house. The music journal Bat Kol has been published in Tel Aviv since 1960.

The Israel National Theater (Habimah) has been functioning in Tel Aviv since 1958. Guest artists (actors and directors) are also invited into its troupe. Its repertoire has included Shakespeare (for example, Julius Caesar in 1962 and The Comedy of Errors in 1964). The theater receives a state subsidy (about 7 percent of the budget). The Cameri (founded in 1944), which stages the works of progressive Israeli and foreign playwrights, is also popular. The Haifa Municipal Theater was founded in Haifa in 1963. Its repertoire includes works of both classical and contemporary dramaturgy (from Shakespeare to Ionesco). Certain leading theatrical groups that had been attempting to develop a national school of acting were dissolved because of lack of funds; they included the Ohel (“Tent,” 1926–68), which addressed itself basically to a workers’ audience, and the satirical theater Matate (“Broom,” 1928–49), which was popular among its viewers. Several dramatic and satirical theaters that appeared during the 1940’s and 1950’s did not last long for the same reason. The repertoires of the small commercial drama troupes that arose during the 1960’s are dominated by avant-garde plays and musical comedies (musicals). Theaters that do not support the official policy of the authorities are subjected to government pressure (undesirable shows are cancelled). The Batsheva Dance Theater has been performing since 1963, staging modernistic performances. The Arab drama company Al-Masrah al-Nahid was founded in 1968.

A film center was organized in the 1950’s under the auspices of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The government established a fund to aid film-making (money comes from a tax imposed on the release of foreign films). There are more than ten working film companies (the largest are Israelfilm and Ge-vafilm). Many films are made jointly with film companies of the USA, France, Italy, West Germany, and Japan. Israeli films of the 1960’s included Sallah, The Boy Across the Street, Written in the Sand, Tevya the Milkman and His Seven Daughters, The Basement, Three Days and a Child, and Highway Queen. The Israel Film Art Archives were founded in Haifa in 1961. There are more than 300 movie theaters; in 1969 there were ten or 12 new releases of feature films and 60–100 of documentaries and newsreels.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Official name: State of Israel

Capital city: Jerusalem

Internet country code: .il

Flag description: White with a blue hexagram (six-pointed linear star) known as the Magen David (Shield of David) centered between two equal horizontal blue bands near the top and bottom edges of the flag

National anthem: “Hatikva”

National emblem: Menorah

Geographical description: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Lebanon

Total area: 7,850 sq. mi. (20,330 sq. km.)

Climate: Temperate; hot and dry in southern and eastern desert areas

Nationality: noun: Israeli(s); adjective: Israeli

Population: 6,426,679 (includes about 187,000 Israeli set­tlers in the West Bank, about 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and fewer than 177,000 in East Jerusalem; July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Jewish 76.4% (Israel-born 67.1%, Europe/America-born 22.6%, Africa-born 5.9%, Asia-born 4.2%), non-Jewish (mostly Arab) 23.6%

Languages spoken: Hebrew (official), Arabic (official for Arab minority), English, Russian

Religions: Jewish 76.4%, Muslim 16%, Arab Christians 1.7%, other Christian 0.4%, Druze 1.6%, unspecified 3.9%

Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


1. a republic in SW Asia, on the Mediterranean Sea: established in 1948, in the former British mandate of Palestine, as a primarily Jewish state; 8 disputes with Arab neighbours (who did not recognize the state of Israel), erupted into full-scale wars in 1948, 1956, 1967 (the Six Day War), and 1973 (the Yom Kippur War). In 1993 Israel agreed to grant autonomous status to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, according to the terms of a peace agreement with the P.L.O. Official languages: Hebrew and Arabic. Religion: Jewish majority, Muslim and Christian minorities. Currency: shekel. Capital: Jerusalem (international recognition withheld as East Jerusalem was annexed (1967) by Israel: UN recognized capital: Tel Aviv). Pop.: 6 560 000 (2004 est.). Area (including Golan Heights and East Jerusalem): 21 946 sq. km (8473 sq. miles)
a. the ancient kingdom of the 12 Hebrew tribes at the SE end of the Mediterranean
b. the kingdom in the N part of this region formed by the ten northern tribes of Israel in the 10th century bc and destroyed by the Assyrians in 721 bc
3. Informal the Jewish community throughout the world
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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