26 interesting facts about Israel

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The most interesting facts about Israel, from the lowest point on Earth to some of the world’s most disputed sites.

Jerusalem at night
Interesting facts about Israel include the holy city of Jerusalem (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: State of Israel
Population: 8.9 million
Area: 21,937 sq km
Capital city: Jerusalem
Major languages: Hebrew, Arabic, English
Major religions: Judaism, Islam
Time zone: UTC+2 (Israel Standard Time)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about Israel

1. Israel is a country in the Middle East and Asia bordering Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Territories.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

2. Israel is the only state in the world with a majority Jewish population – around 74%.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book, BBC News

3. The area of modern Israel may have been inhabited for up to 1.5 million years, according to the dating of fossils found in Ubeidiya near the Sea of Galilee.
– Source: Tchernov, Eitan (1988). “The Age of ‘Ubeidiya Formation (Jordan Valley, Israel) and the Earliest Hominids in the Levant”. Paléorient. 14 (2): 63–65

Map of Israel and occupied territory
Map of Israel and occupied territory (Shutterstock)

4. From 1517 to 1917, what is now Israel, along with much of the Middle East, was ruled by the Ottoman Empire.
– Source: History Channel

5. Following the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Britain took control of the region in 1917 and created the British Mandate of Palestine.
– Source: BBC News

6. Israel became an independent country in 1948 following a UN vote on the partition of Palestine and increasing pressure on the international community to recognise a Jewish state after the Nazi Holocaust.
– Source: BBC News

The flag of Israel flying
The flag of Israel (Shutterstock)

7. The Israeli flag has a white background with two blue stripes and a central Star of David (Magen David). Blue and white are traditional colours of Jewish prayer shawls while the Star of David is the customary emblem of Judaism.
– Source: Wanderlust (2021) Flags, Capitals and Countries of the World: The Complete Handbook. Wanderlust Press: London

8. Israel is part home to the lowest point on Earth. Shared by Israel and the Palestinian Territories on the western side and Jordan on the east, the Dead Sea is 434m (1,424ft) below sea level.
– Source: Lonely Planet

9. The Dead Sea has a salt concentration of 34% – 10 times saltier than seawater.  
– Source: Lonely Planet

Man stands on salt in the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea (Shutterstock)

10. Israel takes its name from biblical times and the ancient Kingdom of Israel when there lived a group of tribes known as Israelites.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

11. According to Biblical tradition, Israel means “He who struggles with God. It comes from when the ancient Jewish figure Jacob (who was Abraham’s grandson) received the name “Israel” after wrestling with an angel all night. Jacob’s 12 sons became the ancestors of the Israelites, also known as the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

12. Israel has nine properties inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
– Source: UNESCO

Ruins from one of Israel's UNESCO sites
The Incense Route – Desert Cities in the Negev UNESCO site (Shutterstock)

13. Israel continues to occupy areas of Syria, the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem after a series of wars since its founding. Most countries do not recognise Israel’s territorial claims.
– Source: BBC News

14. Israel has been repeatedly accused of crimes against humanity with Amnesty International claiming Israel is guilty of “oppression and domination” towards the Palestinian population in the region which amounts to “apartheid”.
– Source: Amnesty International

15. The ancient and holy city of Jerusalem is claimed by both Israel and Palestine. The city is supposed to be shared by both countries but Israel has occupied it since 1967 despite UN condemnation.
– Source: Britannica

Jerusalem at night
The holy city of Jerusalem (Shutterstock)

16. Jerusalem, is not recognised internationally as Israel’s capital city. Of the current 15 members of the UN security council, only the USA recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
– Source: The Guardian

17. Jerusalem is believed to be one of the oldest cities in the world with the earliest inhabitants believed to have settled around 2800 BC.
– Source: The Telegraph

18. Israel is intrinsic to three of the world’s religions. For Jews, it’s known as the “Promised Land” and is considered to be a homeland for Jews; for Christians, it’s the “Holy Land” as it’s where Jesus lived and died; and for Muslims, Jerusalem is the place where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.
– Source: Pew Research Center

The minaret of the Omar Mosque in Jerusalem
The minaret of the Omar Mosque in Jerusalem (Shutterstock)

19. Israel has one of the world’s highest life expectancies at 82.8 years.
– Source: World Bank

20. Israel was ranked the 10th happiest country in the world in a 2022 report.
– Source: World Happiness Report

21. Israel is a world leader in terms of research and development. It has the highest number of start-ups and engineers as a proportion of the population and has more tech start-ups than any other country outside the USA.
– Source: BBC News

22. The Israeli city of Tel Aviv is considered to be among the most powerful cities in the world.
– Source: Global Power City Index, Mori Memorial Foundation

Tel Aviv beach and skyline
Tel Aviv is one of the world’s most powerful cities (Shutterstock)

23. Israel has produced 13 Nobel Prize laureates including Literature, Peace, Chemistry and Economics prize winners. The latest was Joshua Angrist who won the 2021 prize for Economics.
– Source: Nobel Prize

24. The holy site of Al Haram Ash Sharif/Temple Mount in Jerusalem is one of the most disputed in the world. Muslims know it as Al Haram Ash Sharif (The Noble Sanctuary) and Jews know it as Har HaBayit (Temple Mount). The site is home to two of Islam’s most sacred buildings, the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque. It is also revered by Jews as the location of the First and Second Temples.
– Source: Lonely Planet

25. Also known as Wailing Wall, Jerusalem’s Western Wall is considered to be Judaism’s holiest prayer site. The 2,000-year-old wall is a supporting wall of Temple Mount and a place of pilgrimage for Jews.
– Source: Lonely Planet

Al Haram Ash Sharif / Temple Mount in Jerusalem
Al Haram Ash Sharif / Temple Mount in Jerusalem (Shutterstock)

26. Fast-food chain McDonald’s uses blue and white branding in Israel to distinguish its kosher restaurants from its traditional ones.
– Source: The Guardian, McDonald’s

Every effort has been made to verify these facts about Israel using primary sources. However, if you find an error or have any questions, please contact us.