Israel (יִשְׂרָאֵל), officially the State of Israel is a country in Western Asia. It is situated on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the northern shore of the Red Sea, and shares borders with Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan to the east, and Egypt to the southwest; it is also bordered by the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to the east and west, respectively.
The name ‘Israel’ comes from way back. It was given to Jacob, the ancestor of the Israelites, meaning (still greatly debated): “one that struggled with the divine angel” (Josephus), “one who has prevailed with God” (Rashi), “a man seeing God” (Whiston), “he will rule as God” (Strong), or “a prince with God” (Morris), from Hebrew: שרה, “prevail,” “have power as a prince”). (1)
When it came time to name the country, this name ‘Israel’ was suggested by Ben-Gurion and chosen by a vote of 6–3. Names that were rejected were: ‘Land of Israel’ (Eretz Israel), Ever (from ancestor Eber), Zion, and Judea. The names Land of Israel and Children of Israel have historically been used to refer to the biblical Kingdom of Israel and the entire Jewish people respectively.
Even though Israel is small, about 290 miles (470 km) north-to-south and 85 miles (135 km) east-to-west at its widest point, Israel has four geographic regions—the Mediterranean coastal plain, the hill regions of northern and central Israel, the Great Rift Valley, and the Negev—and a wide range of unique physical features and microclimates. (2)
In the north of the country, the mountains of Galilee constitute the highest part of Israel, reaching an elevation of 3,963 feet (1,208 metres) at Mount Meron (Arabic: Jebel Jarmaq). The following photos are all from advisor.travel. com.
The tallest mountain in Israeli-occupied territory (meaning not Internationally recognized) is Mount Hermon, at 9,232 feet (2,814m). It is a mountain cluster constituting the southern end of the Anti-Lebanon mountain range located in the border between Syria and Lebanon. On the top, in the United Nations buffer zone between Syrian and Israeli-occupied territories, is the highest permanently manned UN position in the world, known as “Hermon Hotel”, located at 2,814 m altitude. The southern slopes of Mount Hermon extend to the Israeli-occupied portion of the Golan Heights, where the Mount Hermon ski resort is located with a top elevation of 6,690 feet (2,040 m). A peak in this area rising to 7,336 ft (2,236 m) is the highest elevation in Israeli-occupied territory.
The Hermon Ski Resort
Israel has four major metropolitan areas: Gush Dan (Tel Aviv metropolitan area; population 3,854,000), Jerusalem metropolitan area (population 1,253,900), Haifa metropolitan area (population 924,400), and Beersheba metropolitan area (population 377,100).
Israel’s largest municipality, in population and area, is Jerusalem with 936,425 residents in an area of 125 square kilometres (48 sq mi). The Israeli government statistics on Jerusalem include the population and area of East Jerusalem, which is widely recognized as part of the Palestinian territories under Israeli occupation.
The status of Jerusalem is disputed in both international law and diplomatic practice, with both the Israelis and Palestinians claiming Jerusalem as their capital city. The dispute has been described as “one of the most intractable issues in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict”, with conflicting claims to sovereignty over the city or parts of it, and access to its holy sites. Some countries have taken sides on this dispute by placing their embassy in either Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. The United States for example moved its consulate to Jerusalem in 2018 and from October 2020, for the first time, U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem will be allowed to list “Jerusalem, Israel” as their place of birth on their U.S. passport.
China on the other hand recognizes East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine. In a 2016 speech to the Arab League, Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping said that “China firmly supports the Middle East peace process and supports the establishment of a State of Palestine enjoying full sovereignty on the basis of the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.
This is Tel Aviv:
The great majority of the population, both Jewish and Arab, reside in urban areas. More than half of the country’s population resides in the Tel Aviv–Yafo and Haifa, along the coastal plain. The government has made great efforts to prevent the population from becoming over concentrated in these areas, overseeing in both the north and south the development of new towns occupied largely by the country’s most recent immigrants. (2)
I was so amazed when I read about the design of the flag of Israel… it was designed right here in my city… Boston!!!
The early development of the flag of Israel was part of the emergence of Zionism in the late 19th century. (Zionism is a Jewish nationalist movement that has had as its goal the creation and support of a Jewish national state in Palestine, the ancient homeland of the Jews.) Jacob Askowith and his son Charles designed the “flag of Judah,” which was displayed on July 20, 1891, at the hall of the B’nai Zion Educational Society in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. Based on the traditional ṭallit, or Jewish prayer shawl, that flag was white with narrow blue stripes near the edges and bore in the centre the ancient six-pointed Shield of David with the word Maccabee in blue letters. Isaac Harris of Boston presented this flag idea in 1897 to the first international Zionist Congress, and others, including David Wolfsohn, came up with similar designs. Variations were used by the Zionist movement and, during World War II, by the British army’s Jewish Brigade Group.
The Star of David
Is a derivation of the Seal of Solomon, which was used for decorative and mystical purposes by Muslims and Kabbalistic Jews, its adoption as a distinctive symbol for the Jewish people and their religion dates back to 17th-century Prague. In the 19th century, the symbol began to be widely used among the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe, ultimately coming to be used to represent Jewish identity or religious beliefs.
The two stripes are based on the traditional ṭallit, or Jewish prayer shawl.
The color blue symbolizes God’s glory, purity and ‘gevurah’ (God’s severity).
The color white represents ‘Chesed‘ (Divine Benevolence).
The Emblem of Israel (Hebrew: סמל מדינת ישראל), depicts a temple menorah surrounded by an olive branch on each side, with the word “Israel” written in Hebrew (ישראל) below it.
The image used on the emblem is based on a depiction of the menorah (candle holder) on the Arch of Titus. The menorah was used in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem and has been a symbol of Judaism since ancient times. It symbolizes universal enlightenment, based on what is written in Isaiah 60: “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn”.
The State of Israel adopted the symbol after a design competition held in 1948. The design is based on the winning entry submitted by Gabriel and Maxim Shamir’s proposal, with elements taken from other submissions, including entries from Oteh Walisch, W. Struski, Itamar David, Yerachmiel Schechter, and Willie Wind, whose entry won the first design competition.The emblem was officially adopted on February 10, 1949. (1)