National Geographic : 1972 Dec
ISRAEL B IRTHPLACE of Judaism and Christianity, battleground for Roman, Turk, Crusader, and caliph, the ancient land of Palestine con tains the modern state of Israel. On May 14, 1948, independence was proclaimed at Tel Aviv, and for the first time in 19 centuries, Jews had a homeland-a nation implacably opposed by the Arabs, the centuries-long residents of Palestine. Within hours Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon attacked. Israelis defended their new state successfully, and although armistice came, years of spo radic clashes ensued. Tensions erupted into war again in 1967. Late that May, Egypt moved troops across the Sinai and blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba. Israel countered by thrusting into Sinai, and soon engaged Jor danian and Syrian forces as well. In six swift days in June, Israeli forces swept west to the Suez Canal, east to the Jordan River, north over the Golan Heights, and into one of the bitterest stalemates of the 20th century. AREA: 7,992 square miles, plus 26,500 square miles of occupied territory. POPULATION: 3,000,000, preponderantly Jewish. LANGUAGES: Hebrew, Arabic. Also English, Yiddish. RELIGION: Judaism 85.4%, Islam 10.9%, Christian 2.5%, Druze 1.2%. ECONOMY: Mostly industrial-foods, textiles, transport equipment, chemicals and oil refining. Major export industry: cut diamonds. Agriculture: citrus, vegetables, cotton, grains. MAJOR CITIES: Tel Aviv-Yafo (pop. 400,000), commerce, industry; Haifa, port, oil refining; Jerusalem, capital.