Located on the eastern coastline of the Mediterranean Sea, and with southernmost point looking out over the Red Sea, Israel lies at the junction of three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa. Long and narrow in shape, the country is about 470 kilometres in length and 135 kilometres in width at its widest point. To many it is considered the Holy Land, with a history that told in the Bible and with sites that are sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Although small in size, Israel covers a multi-faceted topography, with snow-capped mountains and forested highlands in north, fertile green valleys in the centre and mountainous and arid deserts in the south. The Dead Sea, which is located on its eastern flank, is the lowest point on earth.
Israel’s almost 8.5 million inhabitants comprise a mosaic of people with varied ethnic backgrounds, lifestyles, religions, cultures and traditions.
Tel Aviv is Israel’s most cosmopolitan city, and its financial, cultural and social centre. With a population of 430,000, it is home to big business, the stock exchange and the major banks, and also the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Israel Opera, theatre companies, dance troupes and museums.
Tel Aviv’s Mediterranean beachfront – lined with excellent hotels, lively cafes and a modern boardwalk – draws crowds of tourists and residents alike. Tel Aviv’s nightlife hops – with restaurants, bars and clubs open all hours of the night. And its shopping – from open-air markets to high-end boutiques – is the best in the country.
The Greater Tel Aviv metropolitan area – which includes Ramat Gan and other municipalities – is home to about 3 million people, more than a third of Israel’s population. Moreover, about one million people visit the city daily.
Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 by European settlers on the sandy stretches north of the ancient port of Jaffa. Proclaimed a world heritage site by UNESCO, the “White City” is rich in Bauhaus-style architectural treasures.
Located within the Judean Hills, Jerusalem has been holy city for the world’s three monotheistic religions for thousands of years. However, it is also a vibrant and modern metropolis where members of all faiths live side by side.
Jerusalem’s historical and religious heritage is apparent throughout the Old City – a walled enclave that contains the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, the Via Dolorosa, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the mosques of El Aksa and Dome of the Rock – all within one square kilometre.
Outside the Old City walls, historical Jerusalem encompasses Mount Zion, Mount Scopus, the Mount of Olives, the Valleys of Kidron and Hinnom, the Garden of Gethsemane and the City of David. Herodian stones, Roman pavements, Crusader walls and Ottoman ramparts stand side by side, making Jerusalem a true mosaic of epochs and faiths.
Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, is home to many of the country’s most important institutions, including the Knesset, which is Israel’s parliament, the president’s residence, government complex and Supreme Court.