Israel is an independent Jewish state, small in size and population, located at the southwestern tip of Asia on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It achieved independence in May 1948. Since Biblical times, Jews of the Diaspora have hoped that they would return to Zion, the "promised land" where the ancient Jewish state had been located as described in the Bible. Over the centuries, Zionism focused on spiritual, religious, cultural, social, and historical links between Jews and the holy land. Political Zionism, with the establishment of a Jewish state as its goal, and Jewish immigration to Palestine both developed in 19th-century Europe, partly as responses to anti-Semitism. The defeat of the Ottoman Empire during World War I and its dismemberment during the subsequent peace conferences led to British administration of Palestine (under a League of Nations mandate) and set the stage for the eventual independence of Israel.
   Israel has achieved rapid development and impressive accomplishments in the social and scientific arenas, even though it has been in a state of war since independence and continually must be prepared to defend its existence. It has been the region's most politically and socially innovative state and has achieved prosperity for its people. Israel has built a democratic system unlike that of any other in the Middle East and has melded immigrants from more than 100 countries into a uniquely Israeli population. In a country almost devoid of natural resources, its people have achieved a high standard of living.
   Despite peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, an aborted agreement with Lebanon, a series of interim agreements with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and periodic U.S.-sponsored talks with Syria, Israel's pursuit of permanent peace with its neighbors is far from complete. The continuing Arab-Israeli conflict and the potential for conflict with elements of the broader Muslim world remain central tests of Israel's foreign and defense policies.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .


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