Israel is a small country of a little more than 22,000 square kilometers located in the Middle East. Following the Second World War, the British withdrew from Palestine and partitioned the area into two states. Israel was created by the UN in 1948 as a homeland for Jews with a capital of Jerusalem.
Israel is bordered by Lebanon and Syria to the north and northeast, by Jordan to the east and Egypt to the south. West of Israel is the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea at Eilat. The territory of the West Bank borders Israel to the East and the Gaza Strip borders it in the southwest. The Arab neighbors were never happy with this agreement and a series of wars were fought with Israel. Significant tension between Israel and the neighboring Arab countries exist today.
Israel is a holy land for Jews, Christians and Muslims. While the 75% of Israeli citizens are Jewish and the official language is Hebrew, there are also a significant minority of Arabs living in Israel.
Getting there and away
Citizens of many countries including the EU, US, Australia and Canada can get a visa on arrival for up to three months. However, those who appear to be of Arab descent and those who have traveled to neighboring countries such as Syria, Iran, and Iraq may be subject to a questioning process and may even be denied entry. It is important to remember that if you have an Israeli stamp in your passport you will most likely be denied entry to Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Iraq.
Israel’s main international airport is the Tel Aviv Ben-Guriun International Airport. There are also bordering crossings with Jordan at Aqaba and with Egypt at Taba.
Israel is a small country but with a lot of diversity of landscape and history. The city of Jerusalem is filled with history, old architecture and a diverse and vibrant culture. The metropolis of Tel Aviv is a bustling modern city. Haifa is the third major city and the center of the Bahai faith. Safed is capital of mysticism in Israel. Eilat is a tourist town at the Southern border on the Red Sea. The Meditarranean, Dead and Red Seas are all attractions for those who want to be in the water. The Negev and Judean deserts also offer unique landscapes.
Budget Travel Tips
Remember that Israel is Middle Eastern country. In many places bargaining is expected, especially if a price seems too high or there is no price listed, if it is an informal exchange (like at a market vs. in a mall in Tel Aviv) or if you are in a tourist area where there aren’t many tourists (like hotel prices in Eilat in the middle of the week). If you’re looking to save money on transportation, I’ve heard that hitchhiking is relatively easy in Israel, though it always has its own risks.
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