Israel lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered by Egypt on the west, Syria and Jordan on the east, and Lebanon on the north. Its maritime plain is extremely fertile. The southern Negev region, which comprises almost half the total area, is mainly a desert.
Officially referred to as the State of Israel, this Middle Eastern country shares its borders with Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, the Mediterranean and Red Sea and the Gulf of Aquaba. According to Basic Laws, Israel describes its political condition at being a Democratic and Jewish State existing as the only Jewish-majority state in the world. The capital and most populous city in Israel is Jerusalem, with Tel Aviv representing its financial hub. This representative democracy is governed by a parliamentary system in which the Prime Minister acts as head of government and the "Knesset" functions as the unicameral legislative entity. Compared to all other countries in the Middle East, Israel offers the highest standard of living within the region and its citizens enjoy one of the world's highest life expectancy rates.
Although Israel engages in over 100 diplomatic missions and has established relations with nearly 160 countries, it has normalized relationships with only three Arab League members: Jordan, Egypt and Mauritania. Further, under Israel statutes, the countries of Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan are considered to be enemies of the state of Israel and no citizen of Israel is allowed to visit these countries without first receiving permission from the Ministry of the Interior. Intense disagreements concerning religious and cultural beliefs are primarily responsible for the less than friendly relations among Israel and certain Muslim countries.
Essential Facts about Israel
- Israel's economy is considered the most durable economy among other developed nations and has also been ranked number one in development and research center investments.
- Comprehensive growth in Israel's industrial and agricultural sectors have allowed this country to become mostly self-sufficient in regards to food production.
- Israel leads the world in solar energy development and is also the leader in geothermal energy and water conservation.
- Working days run from Sunday to Thursday, with Friday included in the six-day workweek. When people work on Fridays, they usually stop early to observe the Shabbat.
- Students studying in Israel will want to make a trip to Ben-Gurion National Solar Energy Center where the world's largest solar parabolic dish is located.
- Currently, nearly 90 percent of homes in Israel heat water using solar energy panels.
- Because Israel routinely experiences water shortages. they have a highly developed water technology industry that makes them one of the world's leading experts in water conservation techniques and water recycling.
Jerusalem and central Israel usually receive one to two snowfalls each year, with the coastal cities of Haifa and Tel Aviv experiencing the typical hot summers and cool, wet winters characterizing a Mediterranean climate. Northern Negev and Beersheba have semi-arid climates that experience much less rain than central Israel. Southern Israel and the Arava areas are desert-like with long, dry, hot summers. In fact the highest temperature ever recorded in the Asian continent--128 degrees Fahrenheit, or 53 Celsius--occurred at Tirat Zvi kibbutz which is located in the northern section of the Jordan River valley. Students can expect to see little to no rain between May and September in Israel. Israel's overall average temperature is a rather high 65 degrees Fahrenheit, or 18 Celsius.
Languages in Israel
The two official languages of Israel are Hebrew and Arabic, with Hebrew spoken by the majority of Israelis. However, many people speak English reasonably well and students will find that quite a few television programs are broadcast in English. In addition, English is taught to all students attending public school starting in the elementary grades.
Israel and Religion
Half of all Israeli Jews claim to be traditional Jews while the remaining half state their religious affiliation as secular Jews and "Religious Zionists". Although the Haredim, or ultra-Orthodox Jews, represent less than five percent of the population, this particular group is expected to encompass one-fifth of those who practice Judaism in Israel within the next decade.
The new shekel is Israel's national currency, which replaced the "old" shekel over 20 years ago and consists of 100 agorot. On banknotes and coins, shekel is spelled "sheqel" or "sheqalim".
The cost of living in Israel is a mixed bag of lower health care costs but higher priced services and goods. It is easy to get credit in Israel, with retailers and banks allowing consumers to pay monthly installments on everything from loans to groceries. Unfortunately, this situation leaves many Israelis working for wages that are lower than those in Europe and the U.S., which forces them to continually rely on credit to buy necessary items.
Study in Israel
Higher Education in Israel
Israel has eight public universities that are state-subsidized, with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem ranked among the best universities in the world. The University of Haifa, the Weizmann Institute of Science and Bar-llan University are several of Israel's other major universities that have produced numerous Nobel-winning scientists over the past decade. However, before students who successfully complete their secondary education in Israel begin higher education studies, most are conscripted into the military, or the IDF (Israel Defense Forces). Some may be able to request a delay to entering the military so that they can enroll in a college or university. Israelis who choose this route enter a program known as atuda, where the army pays tuition for a student's bachelor's degree.
Israel requires students take an entrance exam comparable to the SAT or ACT given in the U.S. that is called the Psychometric Entrance Test. This tests consists of questions concerning English, verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning. The test can be taken in Spanish, Arabic, French and Russian as well as the national language of Hebrew. Students are expected to receive good to excellent grades on the PET before they are accepted by one of Israel's public universities, which pay most of a student's tuition through state-issued subsidies. Alternately, international students should apply for scholarships well in advance of enrolling in an Israeli university to help offset tuition costs.
Foreign students can earn bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees that are comparable to those offered in the U.S and European Union countries. Many students apply to an Israeli university to learn the Hebrew language, study religion, major in Middle Eastern studies or take part in the country's excellent science and technology degree programs.
Non-Israeli students will need to obtain a student visa prior to officially enrolling in a higher education institute. The documents you use to get your student visa are the same documents required to apply for a regular visa once you have entered the country. These documents include a passport that has been valid for two or more years; letter of acceptance from the university at which the student applied; completed application form; two passport photographs and proof of enough funds to cover living expenses and tuition while in Israel. Students may live on campus, stay with a host family or take advantage of free youth hostels located in the Old City of Jerusalem. Heritage House is one of these hostels that allows you to stay for free whenever you like, as long as you are gone from the hostel between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm each day, except Shabbat. In addition, Jerusalem's Heritage House provides free internet service to anyone staying at the hostel.
Why Study in Israel?
The nation of Israel is a historically fascinating and culturally diverse country that contains a wealth of famous places to see and explore. While studying in Israel, students will have the chance to see the famous Dead Sea, shop in Tel Aviv's Carmel Marketplace, gaze at the beauty of the Baha'i Gardens in Haifa and investigate many religious sites dating back several thousand years ago.