The Holy Lands of Israel and the Sinai Desertsit at the crossroads three continents – of Asia, Africa and Europe – and three great religions –Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Jews have lived here for over 3,000 years, but the State of Israel was only created in 1948. It’s the Jewish Promised Land, the land of Jesus and where Mohammed ascended to Heaven.
With only 5 million people in a country the size of New Jersey, the fate of Israel has been varied, religious and political throughout its turbulent past and equally turbulent present. In the last 50 years it has gone from being a wasteland to a modern nation. Two mammoth tasks make Israel unique, as a gathering of the nation of Jews and the irrigation of a desert into a homeland.
Israel is a land of contrasts, from ragged deserts to ripe farmlands, cosmopolitan skylines, from pious religions and pilgrimages, to a mecca for technology. It’s a nation which mixes the old and the new, from the cradle of civilisation – where human culture first developed to modern urban life.
Around 80% of Israel’s population are Jews who have immigrated to the “promised land” since the 1950’s from around Europe and Africa. The remaining are mainly Arabic Muslims(Palestinians) and a small Christian minority. Those born and native to Israel are known as Sabra. Israel is keen on military service – It’s compulsory for men to serve three years, with two years for unmarried women, so most will marry young.
Due to the relatively new formation of Israel and the masses of immigrants, you will hear the many tongues of Babel in the major cities – Russian, English, Arabic, Yiddish. But Hebrew has been adapted and resurrected for everyday use among the people. “Shalom” means hello, goodbye, and peace and is a vital phrase to remember.
Food in Israel is a melting pot of the different cuisines of all of Israel’s many nations, and produces some strange combinations like falafel and chips, goulash and couscous and chicken soup and kubbe. Expect many foods from Greek, Russian , Middle East and Morocco with plenty of Israel’s famous fresh fruits and veg and milk.
You can rent a car from the main airports using international companies like Eurocar, hertz and Budget Rent-a-car, a safe and fairly cheap way if you intend to do a lot of travelling.
Avis – Car Rental in Israel – Book your car online from Avis Israel, And save!
By Susi O’Neill
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