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Israel - Overview

Israel is famous as the ‘Holy Land’, connecting three major religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Many people of all religions make pilgrimages to the country each year. The capital city of Jerusalem has a history dating back thousands of years and visitors can take in sights such as the Dead Sea Scrolls in the museum there. However, the UN does not recognise Jerusalem as the capital city and most embassies can be found in Tel Aviv.

The country is situated on the Eastern part of the Mediterranean and sits in the GMT + 2 time zone, bordered by Syria and Lebanon to the north; Palestine and Jordan to the east and Egypt can be found to the south of the country. The disputed land of Gaza is part of Palestine, but is currently under the control of Hamas, a militant group. The country has several different climates. The south of the country can be extremely hot in summer while the north can be cool in winter. Autumn and spring both tend to be mild.

The country has a population of just under 8 million people and the country is a republic, with the state of Israel being founded in 1948. The official languages are Hebrew and Arabic, with around 60% of the population using Hebrew on a daily basis. Arabic accounts for another 15% and the remainder is made up of minority languages such as English, French and Yiddish.

Israel has a single chamber government, with 120 elected members. Elections take place every four years. The parliament appoints a President, who acts as the Head of State, although all legislation is passed by the government.

Expats who move to Israel tend to be Jewish people who wish to return to their homeland. A minority of expats are of other religions that relocate to the country for other reasons, usually work. Expats will find that Israel people have an informal outlook and welcome the opportunity to meet and talk to new people. The Israeli people occasionally have a blunt manner which can be mistaken for rudeness.

The currency is the shekel, which divides into 100 agorot. Visitors will find that some shop keepers prefer to take foreign currency and this can save on VAT on purchases. One British pound is the equivalent of around 5 shekels and the American dollar is the equivalent of 3.5 shekels.

Due to the political situation there are some areas of the country which may be best avoided. All travel to the Gaza region should be avoided due to the security threats.

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