Israel is a country on the eastern Mediterranean sea in Western Asia measuring about 400km from north to south and 120km from west to east in its widest part. The country enjoys a moderate Mediterranean climate, while its southern part, the Negev desert, is mostly arid and desertic. The territory is mostly mountainous, with plain areas onlyalong the Mediterranean and the Jordan valley. Israel is the birthplace of two world religions, Judaism and Christianity and is a major holy site for the Muslim faith as well. The area has been settled since the Neolithic period in the 9th millenium BC. In the 4th millenium BC the region was settled by Semitic tribes and in the 2nd millenium BC a Jewish state emerged. The region was occupied by foreign powers for long periods of time. In 64 BC the last independent Jewish state was conquered by the Roman empire. After a series of rebellions the Jews were finally banned from living in the region in 135 AD. Subsequently Arabic populations moved in and in 636 AD the region was Islamised. Between 1099 and 1291 Palestine was under Christian rule, after that under Mamluk and Ottoman rule. In 1917 Palestine became a British protectorate. The modern state of Israel was established in 1948 following the UN partition plan of 1947 which foresaw the creation of a Jewish and Arab state in Palestine. Today Israel is a developed country with a strong high-tech and defense sector. Leading exports include fruits, vegetables, pharmaceuticals, software, chemicals, military technology and diamonds.
147 photos of Jerusalem, the most significant city in Israel, home to the holiest sites of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths
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