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chief means of transportation
is its road network, which totaled 16,281 km (10,117 mi) in
2000. Motor vehicle ownership has increased rapidly,
reaching 228 passenger vehicles per 1,000 persons in 2000.
Traffic congestion and accidents can be serious problems.
A national company runs popular, affordable, and frequent
bus services in many areas.
State-owned railroads operate 925 km (575 mi) of track.
Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv-Yafo serves
as the major airport. Israel’s national airline, El Al,
provides international service, while Arkia provides
Major ports include Haifa in the north, Ashdod on the
central Mediterranean coast, and Elat on the Gulf of Aqaba.
Because of boycotts by neighboring Arab nations, Israeli shipping remains
vital to Israel’s trade with more distant partners by way of
the Atlantic and Indian oceans.
(country), country in southwestern Asia,
formed in 1948 as a Jewish state in the historic region of
Palestine, and located on the eastern shore of the
Mediterranean Sea. Israel is bounded on the north by
Lebanon, on the northeast by Syria, on the east by Jordan,
and on the southwest by Egypt. Its southernmost tip extends
to the Gulf of Aqaba, an arm of the Red Sea. Israel’s
isolated position as a Jewish state surrounded by Arab and
predominantly Islamic countries has influenced nearly every
aspect of its foreign relations, demography, and economic
policy throughout its history.
The origins of the
present-day struggle between Israel and Arab nations
predate the creation of Israel. Throughout the early
20th century Palestine, as the birthplace of Judaism and
site of the ancient Hebrew Kingdom of Israel, became a
center of Jewish immigration, encouraged and organized
by a movement known as Zionism. Jews clashed with the
Palestinian Arab inhabitants of the region throughout
the British administration of Palestine from 1918 to
1948. In the years after World War II (1939-1945) the
United Nations (UN) developed a plan to partition
Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states. The
Arabs rejected the plan, but the Jews accepted it, and
the independent nation of Israel was created in 1948.
Five Arab nations—Egypt, Transjordan (now Jordan),
Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq—immediately attacked Israel. In
the Arab-Israeli War of 1948-1949 and subsequent wars
with its Arab neighbors Israel acquired territory beyond
its 1948 boundaries. As a result of the Six-Day War of
1967 Israel took and later annexed the Syrian territory
of the Golan Heights, a claim not recognized by most
nations. Israel also occupied the West Bank (formerly of
Jordan) and the Gaza Strip (formerly of Egypt), areas
now partially under Palestinian Arab administration.
Even Jerusalem, the city Israel claims as its capital,
remains an area of dispute. Predominantly Jewish West
Jerusalem has been part of Israel since independence in
1948; Israel captured mostly Arab East Jerusalem in
1967. Israel has since claimed the entire city as its
capital. However, the United Nations does not recognize
Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.