Israel is a small, narrow, semi-arid country on the southeastern coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. It entered history some 35 centuries ago when the Jewish people forsook its nomadic way of life, settled in the Land and became a nation.
|Map of Israel
Over the years, the Land was known by many names - Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel); Zion, one of Jerusalem's hills which came to signify both the city and the Land of Israel as a whole; Palestine, derived from Philistia, and first used by the Romans; the Promised Land; and the Holy Land, to mention but a few. However, to most Israelis today, the country is simply Ha'aretz - the Land.
Over 7.8 million people live in Israel today; some 5.9 million Jews and 1.6 million Arabs. A wide spectrum of lifestyles characterizes the country, ranging from religious to secular, from modern to traditional, from urban to rural, from communal to individual.