Background Notes: Israel

PA/PC Source: Office of Public Communication, Bureau of Public Affairs Date: Jan 15, 19911/15/91 Category: Country Data Region: MidEast/North Africa Country: Israel Subject: Cultural Exchange, Resource Management, Military Affairs, History, Trade/Economics, International Organizations, Regional/Civil Unrest [TEXT] Official Name: State of Israel


Area: 20,325 sq. km(1). (7,850 sq. mi.); about the size of New Jersey. Cities: Capital(2)-Jerusalem. Other cities-Tel Aviv, Haifa. Terrain: Plains, mountains, desert, and coast. Climate: Temperate, except in desert areas.
Population (1990): 4.7 million. Annual growth rate: 1.8%. Ethnic groups: Jewish 82%, non-Jewish (18%, mostly Arab). Religions: Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Druze. Languages: Hebrew, Arabic, English. Education: Years compulsory-12. Literacy-Jewish 88%; Arab 70%. Health: Infant mortality rate (1988)-10/1,000. Life expectancy-76. yrs. Work force: Public and community services- 29.5%. Industry-21.6%. Commerce, restaurants, hotels-14.5%. Finance and business-10%. Personal and other services-7.4%. Transport, storage, communications-6.4%. Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries-4.9%. Construction-4.7%. Electricity and water-1%. Organized labor-90% of labor force.
Type: Parliamentary democracy. Independence: May 14, 1948. Constitution: No written document. Branches: Executive-president (chief of state); prime minister (head of government). Legislative- unicameral, Knesset. Judicial-Supreme Court. Administrative subdivisions: Six administrative districts. Political parties: Likud bloc (Herut-Liberal alliance), Labor Alignment, National Religious Party, Tehiya, and numerous smaller parties, including a communist party. Suffrage: Universal over 18. Flag: White field on which is centered a blue six-pointed Star of David bordered above and below by blue horizontal stripes (design based on Jewish prayer shawl).
GNP: (1989) $42.7 billion. Annual growth rate: (1989) 1.1%. Per capita income: (1989) $9,460. Annual inflation rate (1989): 21%. Natural resources: Copper, phosphate, bromide, potash, clay, sand, sulphur, bitumen, manganese. Agriculture: Products-citrus and other fruits, vegetables, beef, dairy, poultry products. Industry: Types- food processing, diamond cutting and polishing, textiles and clothing, chemicals, metal products, transport equipment, electrical equipment, miscellaneous machinery, potash mining, high technology, electronics. Trade: Exports-(1989) $10.3 billion: polished diamonds, citrus and other fruits, textiles and clothing, processed foods, fertilizer and chemical products, electronics. Tourism is also an important foreign exchange earner. Imports- $13.2 billion: military equipment, rough diamonds, oil, chemicals, machinery, iron and steel, cereals, textiles, vehicles, ships, and aircraft. Major partners-US, FRG, UK, France, Belgium, Luxembourg. Official exchange rate: On August 1, 1986, the Israeli shekel became linked to a weighted basket of 5 currencies. The US dollar accounts for approximately 60% of the weight of the basket; the West German mark, 20%, British pound sterling, 10%, and the French franc and Japanese yen, 5% each. As of Sept. 10, 1990, the exchange rate of the New Israeli Shekel to the basket of currencies was 2.4 (approximately 2.08 NIS = US $1).
Membership in International Organizations:
UN and some of its specialized and related agencies, including the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); INTELSAT and others. (1) Includes Jerusalem.(2 )Israel proclaimed Jerusalem its capital in 1950. The United States, like nearly all other countries, maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv.


Of the estimated 4.7 million Israelis in 1990, about 3.9 million were Jews. The non-Jewish minority has quintupled since 1948. The Jewish population has sextupled since independence, with more than half of the increase due to immigration. Nearly half of these immigrants were from the Arab countries of the Near East and North Africa. Since 1973, however, immigration has declined and in 1985, 1986, and 1988, Jewish emigration exceeded immigration. In 1984-85, Ethiopian Jews accounted for a large portion of immigrants. Immigration of Jews from the Soviet Union grew in 1989 and 1990 due to the relaxation of emigration restrictions by the USSR. About 13,000 Soviet Jews emigrated to Israel in 1989, and 185,000 did so in 1990. This is the largest wave of immigration to Israel since the years immediately after independence. The three broad Jewish groupings are: the Askenazim, or Jews who came to Israel mainly from Europe, North and South America, South Africa, and Australia; the Sephardim, who trace their origin to Spain and Portugal; and Eastern or Oriental Jews, who descend from ancient communities in Islamic lands. Of the non-Jewish population, about 76% are Muslims; 14% are Christians; and about 10% are Druze and others. Most non-Jews are Arabs, but a small number of Europeans are permanent residents. Education between ages 5 and 16 is free and compulsory. The school system is organized into kindergartens, 6-year primary schools, 3-year junior secondary schools, and 3-year senior secondary schools, after which a comprehensive matriculation examination is offered for university admission. There are seven university-level institutions.
Cultural Achievements
With a population drawn from more than 100 countries on 5 continents, Israeli society is rich in cultural diversity and artistic creativity. The arts are actively encouraged and supported by the government. The Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra performs throughout the country and frequently tours abroad. The Jerusalem Symphony, the orchestra of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, also tours frequently, as do the Israeli and Kibbutz Chamber Orchestras. Almost every municipality and small agricultural settlement has a chamber orchestra or ensemble. Folkdancing, drawing from the cultural heritage of many immigrant groups, is very popular. Israel also has several professional ballet and modern dance companies. There is great public interest in the theater. The repertoire covers the entire range of classical and contemporary drama, including plays by Israeli authors. Of the three major repertory companies, the most famous, Habimah, was founded in 1917. Active artist colonies thrive in Safed, Jaffa, and Ein Harod, and Israeli painters and sculptors exhibit and sell their works worldwide. Haifa and Tel Aviv have excellent art museums, and many towns and kibbutzim have smaller high-quality museums. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem houses the Dead Sea Scrolls along with an extensive collection of Jewish religious and folk art. The Museum of the Diaspora is located on the campus of Tel Aviv University. Israelis are avid newspaper readers, with a total daily circulation of 500,000-600,000 copies or 12-14 papers per 100 people. Major daily papers are in Hebrew; others are in Arabic, English, French, Polish, Yiddish, Russian, Hungarian, and German.


The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 was preceded by more than a half century of efforts by Zionist leaders to establish a sovereign nation as a homeland for Jews. Attachment to the land of Israel is a recurrent theme in Jewish scripture and writing. The desire of Jews to return to what is to them their rightful homeland was first expressed during the Babylonian exile and became a universal Jewish theme after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70 and the dispersal that followed. It was not until the founding of the Zionist movement by Theodore Herzl at the end of the l9th century that practical steps were taken toward securing international sanction for large-scale Jewish settlement in Palestine-then a part of the Ottoman Empire. The Balfour Declaration in 1917 asserted the British Government's support for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. This declaration was supported by a number of other countries, including the United States, and became more important following World War I, when the United Kingdom was assigned the Palestine Mandate by the League of Nations. Jewish immigration grew slowly in the 1920s; it increased substantially in the 1930s due to political turmoil in Europe and Nazi persecution, until restrictions were imposed. After the end of WWII and the revelation of the near-extermination of European Jewry by the Nazis, international support for Jews seeking to settle in Palestine overcame British efforts to restrict immigration. International support for establishing a Jewish state led to the adoption in November 1947 of the UN Partition Plan, which called for dividing the Mandate of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state and for establishing Jerusalem separately as an international city under UN administration. Violence between the Arab and Jewish communities erupted almost immediately. Toward the end of the British mandate, the Jews planned to declare a separate state, a development the Arabs were determined to prevent. On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was proclaimed. The following day, armies from neighboring Arab nations entered the former mandate of Palestine and fought Israeli defense forces. Under UN auspices, in 1949, four armistice agreements were negotiated and signed at Rhodes, Greece, between Israel and its neighbors, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. After the 1948-49 war, the Jewish state encompassed almost 50% more territory than the total allotted to it under the UN Partition Plan, and included within its boundaries the western sector of Jerusalem. No general peace settlement was achieved at Rhodes, however, and for many years violence along the borders continued. In October 1956, Israel invaded the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula at the same time that operations by French and British forces against Egypt were taking place in the Suez Canal area. Israeli forces withdrew in March 1957 after the United nations established the UN Emergency Force (UNEF) in the Gaza Strip and Sinai. In 1966-67, terrorist incidents and retaliatory acts across the armistice demarcation lines increased. In May 1967, after tension had developed between Syria and Israel, Egyptian President Nasser moved armaments and about 80,000 troops into the Sinai and ordered a withdrawal of UNEF troops from the armistice line and Sharm El-Sheikh. Nasser then closed the Strait of Tiran to Israeli ships, blockading the Israeli port of Eilat at the northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba. On May 30, Jordan and Egypt signed a mutual defense treaty. In response to these events, Israeli forces attacked Egypt, Jordan, and Syria on June 5. After 6 days of fighting, when all parties had accepted the cease-fire called for by UN Security Council Resolutions 235 and 236, Israel controlled the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the Kuneitra (Golan) sector of Syria, and the formerly Jordanian-controlled West Bank of the Jordan River, including East Jerusalem. On November 22, 1967, the Security Council adopted Resolution 242, the "land for peace" formula, which called for the establishment of a just and lasting peace that should be based on Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967 in exchange for the end of all states of belligerency, respect for the sovereignty of all states in the area, and the right to live in peace within secure, recognized boundaries. In early 1969, fighting broke out between Egypt and Israel along the Suez Canal. The United States helped to end these hostilities in August 1970, but subsequent US efforts to negotiate an interim agreement to open the Suez Canal and achieve disengagement of forces were unsuccessful. On October 6, 1973, Yom Kippur (the Jewish Day of Atonement), Syrian and Egyptian forces attacked Israeli positions in Golan and along the Suez Canal. Initially, Syria and Egypt made significant advances against Israeli forces. However, Israel recovered on both fronts, pushed the Syrians back beyond the 1967 cease-fire lines, and recrossed the canal to take a salient on its west bank. The October war was followed by renewed and intensive efforts toward peace. The United States and the Soviet Union took the lead in helping to bring about a cease-fire. In the Security Council, the United States supported Resolution 338, which reaffirmed Resolution 242 as the framework for peace and called, for the first time, for negotiations between the parties to achieve this. The cease-fire did not end the sporadic clashes along the cease-fire lines or dissipate military tensions. The United States tried to help the parties reach agreement on cease-fire stabilization and military disengagement. On March 5, 1974, Israeli forces withdrew from the canal, and Egypt assumed control. Syria and Israel signed a disengagement agreement on May 31, 1974, and the UN Disengagement and Observer Force (UNDOF) was established as a peacekeeping force in the Golan. Further US efforts resulted in an interim agreement between Egypt and Israel in September 1975, which provided for another Israeli withdrawal in the Sinai, a limitation of forces, and three observation stations staffed by US civilians in a UN-maintained buffer zone between Egyptian and Israeli forces. In November 1977, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat broke the 30-year cycle of hostilities with Israel by visiting Jerusalem at the invitation of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. During a 2-day visit, which included a speech before the Knesset, the Egyptian leader created a new psychological climate in the Middle East where peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors seemed a realistic possibility. By this act, Sadat recognized Israel's right to exist and established the basis for direct negotiations between Egypt and Israel. In September 1978, US President Jimmy Carter invited President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin to meet with him at Camp David, where they agreed on a framework for peace between Israel and Egypt and for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. It set out broad principles to guide negotiations between Israel and the Arab states. It also established guidelines for a West Bank-Gaza transitional regime of full autonomy and for a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. The treaty was signed on March 26, 1979, by Begin and Sadat, with President Carter signing as witness. They agreed that negotiations on a transitional regime of autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza would begin 1 month after ratification. Under the peace treaty, Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt in April 1982. In 1989, the Governments of Israel and Egypt concluded an agreement that resolved the status of Taba, a resort area in the Gulf of Aqaba. In the years following the 1948 war, Israel's border with Lebanon was quiet, compared to its borders with other neighbors. After the expulsion of the Palestinian fedayeen from Jordan in 1970 and their influx into southern Lebanon, however, hostilities by Palestinian fedayeen against Israel's northern border increased. In March 1978, after a series of clashes between the Palestinians in Lebanon and Israel, Israeli forces crossed into Lebanon. After the passage of Security Council Resolution 425, calling for Israeli withdrawal, and the creation of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon peacekeeping force (UNIFIL), Israel withdrew its troops. In July 1981, after additional fighting between Israel and the Palestinians in Lebanon, President Reagan's special envoy, Philip C. Habib, helped secure a cease-fire between the parties. In June 1982, after an assassination attempt on the Israeli Ambassador to Britain, Israel invaded Lebanon to fight the forces of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). In August 1982, the PLO withdrew its forces from Lebanon. With US assistance in May 1983, Israel and Lebanon reached an accord that set the stage to withdraw Israeli forces from Lebanon. However, the instruments of ratification were never exchanged, and in March 1984, Lebanon, under pressure from Syria, canceled the agreement. In June 1985, Israel withdrew most of its troops from Lebanon. A small residual Israeli force and an Israeli- supported militia remain in southern Lebanon in a "security zone," regarded by Israel as a necessary buffer against attacks on its northern territory.


Israel is a parliamentary democracy. Its governmental system is based on several basic laws enacted by its unicameral parliament, the Knesset. The president (chief of state) is elected by the Knesset for a 5-year term. The prime minister (head of government) exercises executive power. Traditionally, the president selects as prime minister that party leader most able to form a government. The prime minister and other members of the cabinet must be approved by the Knesset, to which they are individually and collectively responsible. Cabinet membership is negotiated among the parties forming the coalition. The Knesset's 120 members are elected by secret ballot to 4- year terms, although the prime minister may decide to call for new elections before the end of its term. Voting is for party lists rather than for individual candidates, and the total number of seats assigned each party reflects the percentage of the total vote cast in the elections for the party. Successful Knesset candidates are drawn from the lists in order of party-assigned rank. Under the present electoral system, all members of the Knesset are elected at large. The Independent judicial system includes secular and religious courts. The courts do not have the right of judicial review of the Knesset's legislation. Judicial interpretation is restricted to problems of execution of laws and validity of subsidiary legislation. The highest court in Israel is the Supreme Court, whose judges are appointed by the president. Israel is divided into six districts, each headed by a commissioner appointed by the central government. The commissioners are responsible to the Minister of Interior. The Ministry of Defense is responsible for the administration of the occupied territories.


From the founding of Israel in 1948 until the election of May 1977, Israel was ruled by a coalition government led by the Labor Alignment or its constituent parties. From 1967-70, the coalition government included all of Israel's parties, except the communist party. After the 1977 election, the Likud bloc, then composed of Herut, the Liberals, and the smaller La'am Party, came to power, forming a coalition with the National Religious Party, Agudat Israel, and others. As head of the Likud, Menachem Begin became Prime Minister. The Likud retained power in the succeeding election in June 1981, and Begin remained Prime Minister. In late summer of 1983, Begin resigned and was succeeded by his Foreign Minister, Yitzhak Shamir. After losing a Knesset vote of confidence early in 1984, Shamir was forced to call for new elections, held in July of that year. The vote was split among numerous parties and provided no clear winner, leaving both Labor and Likud considerably short of a Knesset majority. Neither Labor nor Likud was able to attract enough small party support to form a narrow coalition, and after several weeks of difficult negotiations, they agreed on a broadly based government of national unity. The agreement provided for the rotation of the office of prime minister and the combined office of vice prime minister and foreign minister mid-way through the government's 50-month term. During the first 25 months of unity government rule, Labor's Shimon Peres served as prime minister, while Likud's Shamir held the posts of vice prime minister and foreign minister. Peres and Shamir switched position in October 1986. The November 1988 elections resulted in a similar coalition government. Likud edged Labor out by one seat but was unable to form a coalition with the religious and right-wing parties. Likud and Labor formed another National Unity Government (NUG) in January 1989 without providing for rotation. Yitzhak Shamir became prime minister and Shimon Peres became vice prime minister and finance minister. The National Unity Government fell on March 15, 1990, in a no-confidence vote precipitated by disagreement over the government's response to US Secretary of State Baker's initiative in the peace process. Labor Party leader Peres was unable to attract sufficient support among the religious parties to form a government. Yitzhak Shamir then formed a Likud-led coalition government including members from religious and right-wing parties. This government took office in June 1990. Three Major Voting Blocs Labor Alignment. The Labor Alignment's support traditionally has been based on the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor), the kibbutzim, and the middle- and upper- middle classes of European or Sabra (Israeli-born) origin. Its socialist ethic dominated Israeli policy until Likud's 1977 victory. Recently, Labor's economic orientation is becoming more pragmatic. Likud. The Likud draws much of its support from the Sephardic and Eastern Jews and traditionally has represented the center/right wing element of the Israeli spectrum. Likud advocates a greater role for the free market in the Israeli economy. Religious Parties. National Religious Party (NRP), Agudat Israel, and the Sephardic Torah Guardians Association (SHAS) represent the interests of the Orthodox public. They often provide the crucial balance in coalition politics. Chaim Herzog, a member of the Labor Party and a former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, was reelected president by the Knesset in 1988.


Israel has a mixed economy with substantial government participation and controlled prices for basic commodities. It depends on imports of oil, food, grain, raw material, and military equipment. It is poor in natural resources but well endowed with skilled labor. Israel's strong commitment to economic development and its talented work force led to economic growth rates during the nation's first two decades that frequently exceeded 10% annually. This development transformed the Israeli economy into a modern industrial and service economy with a per capita income roughly comparable to those of Ireland, Spain, and Greece. In 1989, GNP was almost $43 billion. The major industrial sectors are metal products, electronic equipment, food processing, chemical and oil products, transport equipment, and rubber and plastic products. Israel's growth rate began to slow in the mid- 1970s, primarily due to high inflation that peaked in the first half of the 1980s. In July 1985, the government began a comprehensive economic stabilization program to attack inflation and the balance- of-payments deficit. The United States helped finance the program by providing $1.5 billion in emergency economic aid. This program reduced inflation to about 20% in 1986 and economic growth increased. However, progress on capital market and tax reform and privatization of state enterprises has been slow. In late 1987, the pace of economic activity in Israel slackened. This slowdown continued and deepened in 1988 with economic growth registering its lowest level since 1982, inflation remaining around 20% and unemployment in the first quarter of 1989 reaching its highest level since 1967. Israel's economic slowdown has been affected by the Palestinian uprising in the Occupied Territories. In October 1984, the United States and Israel agreed to establish a Joint Economic Development Group to study the Israeli economic situation and discuss ways in which the United States could help Israel's recovery efforts.
An important aspect of Israeli life is the vast, multifaceted organization known as the Histadrut. The Histadrut was inspired by the Zionist-socialist ideas of East European and Russian Jews who emigrated to Palestine to establish a Jewish homeland. The purpose of the Histadrut before the formation of the State of Israel in 1948 was to encourage Jewish immigration to Palestine and to help ensure that new arrivals had housing and employment. The Histadrut is divided into three main departments: labor unions; industrial and commercial enterprises; and the health and welfare department. It plays a major role in labor-management relations and in formulating Israel's economic and social policies. It also operates major companies, a bank, and an extensive social insurance system. Internationally, the Histadrut has close contacts with labor unions in the West, especially the AFL-CIO, and has developed working relations with Asian and African labor unions, even in countries with which Israel has no diplomatic relations. Trade Israel's balance-of-payments traditionally has been characterized by a large excess of imports over exports, which has been offset by capital inflows. In 1989, exports totaled $10.9 billion and imports (not including defense) $12.7 billion, yielding a trade deficit of $1.8 billion. Net capital inflows totaled $4.9 billion, of which the United States provided $1.2 billion in economic assistance. Other major sources of capital flows are Israel bond sales and remittances from the United Jewish Appeal. The United States is Israel's principal trading partner, supplying about 19% of Israel's total imports and taking about 30% of its exports. In 1985, the two countries concluded a free trade area agreement that will eliminate duties on commodity trade between the countries by 1995. Israel also has an industrial free trade area agreement with the European Community (EC) and enjoys preferential tariff reductions for agricultural exports to it. EC nations account for about one-third of Israel's exports and supply one-half of its imports. Effective January 1986, Israel established the city of Eilat as a free trade zone.


In addition to seeking an end to hostilities with Arab forces, against which it has fought five wars in its 43-year history, Israel has given high priority to gaining wide acceptance as a sovereign state with an important international role. Before 1967, it had established diplomatic relations with a majority of the world's nations, except for the Arab states and most other Muslim countries. The Soviet Union and the communist states of Eastern Europe (except Romania) broke diplomatic relations with Israel during the 1967 war. Currently, the diplomatic climate between Israel and the Soviet Union is improving; they exchanged consular delegations in 1987 and 1988 and consulates general were opened late in 1990. Hungary reestablished diplomatic relations with Israel in September 1989; Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria reestablished relations in 1990. Beginning in late 1972, and primarily during the October 1973 war, most sub-Saharan African countries severed relations with Israel. In the 1980s, Israel reestablished relations with Zaire, Liberia, Kenya, Togo, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi, and the Central African Republic. Israel also has diplomatic relations with South Africa. The Federal Republic of Germany and Israel established relations in 1965. Israel recognized the People's Republic of China in 1980 but has no diplomatic relations with that country. Israel and Spain initiated diplomatic relations in 1986.


Israel's ground, air, and naval forces, known as the Israel Defense Force (IDF), fall under the command of a single General Staff. Approximately 1 million Israelis are eligible for military service. Conscription is universal for Jewish men and women over the age of 18, although exemptions may be granted on religious grounds. Druze, members of a small Islamic sect living in Israel's mountains, also serve in the IDF. During 1950-66, Israel spent an average of 9% of GNP on defense. Real defense expenditures increased dramatically after both the 1967 and 1973 wars. In recent years, defense expenditure as a proportion of GDP has remained steady at about 15%-20% of GDP. In 1983, the United States and Israel established the Joint Political Military Group, which includes joint military planning and combined exercises. The United States and Israel have signed an agreement to have Israel participate in Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) research.


Commitment to Israel's security and well-being has been a cornerstone of US policy in the Middle East since its creation in 1948, in which the United States played a key supporting role. Israel and the United States are bound closely by historic and cultural ties as well as by mutual interests. Continuing US economic and security assistance to Israel acknowledges these ties and signals US commitment. The broad issues of Arab-Israeli peace have been a major focus in the US-Israeli relationship. US efforts to reach a Middle East peace settlement are based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. These resolutions provided the basis for cease-fire and disengagement agreements concerning the Sinai and the Golan Heights between Israel, Egypt, and Syria and in promoting the Camp David accords and the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty. They also were the foundation for President Reagan's September 1, 1982, peace initiative and Secretary Shultz's January 1988 initiative, that aimed at stimulating conditions to bring Jordan and representative Palestinians into the Middle East peace process. On May 14, 1989, the Israeli cabinet approved a peace initiative calling, among other things, for elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to choose representatives to negotiate a transition period of Palestinian self-rule. The United States supported the Israeli initiative because elections could launch a political process leading to negotiations on interim arrangements and permanent status. Disagreement over how to implement the peace initiative led to the fall of the National Unity Government in March 1990. The narrow government of Yitzhak Shamir, which took office in June, supports the May 1990 peace initiative. The US objective remains to achieve a comprehensive Middle East peace reached through negotiations based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. Relations between the United States and Israel have been strengthened in recent years by the establishment of bilateral cooperative institutions in many fields. Foundations in the fields of science and technology include the Binational Science Foundation and the Binational Agricultural Research and Development Foundation. The US-Israeli Education Foundation sponsors educational and cultural programs.
Principal Government Officials
President-Chaim Herzog Prime Minister-Yitzhak Shamir, Likud Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister-David Levy, Likud Ambassador to the United States-Zalman Shoval Ambassador to the United Nations-Yoram Aridor Israel maintains an embassy in the United States at 3514 International Drive, NW., Washington, DC. 20008 (tel. 202-364- 5500). There are also consulates general in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.
Principal US Officials
Ambassador--William A. Brown Deputy Chief of Mission--Mark R. Parris Political Affairs--John E. Herbst Economic-Commercial Affairs--Henry L. Clarke Administration--Clarence E. Pegues, Jr. Consular Affairs--Michael J. Metrinko Public Affairs (USIS)--Christopher Snow Commercial Affairs--Michael J. Mercurio Science Attache--Charles A. Lawson Defense Attache--Col. James F. Carney US Consulate General. Jerusalem Consual General--Phillip Wilcox, Jr. Deputy Principal Officer--David Winn Chief, Consular Section--Donna Sherman The US Embassy in Israel is located at 71 Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv (tel. 03-654338; Consular Section tel. 03-650015). The Consulate General in Jerusalem has offices at 18 Agron Road, (tel. 02-253289) and on Nablus Road, (tel. 02-282231).


Clothing needs are about the same as for the American southwest. Low-heeled, thick-soled walking shoes are best suited for most tourist sites. Dress at most religious sites should be appropriately modest. Most of Israel is quite warm and humid, except for December through March. Rainfall occurs regularly during winter months; occasionally it snows in Jerusalem and in the mountains.
Israel requires that at least one pharmacy in a neighborhood be open or on call at all times; a list is published at least weekly in the English-language Jerusalem Post. Israel and US public health standards are about equal. Adequate medical and dental care is available, and tapwater is potable.
Telephone and telegraph services, domestic and international, are efficient. Rates are higher than in the United States. Israel is seven standard time zones ahead of eastern standard time. Transportation: Israel has a well-developed transportation network. Israel's international airline, El Al, maintains regularly scheduled services to the United States, Canada, Europe, and parts of Africa and Asia. Some American carriers provide regular service to Israel. Israel has a good nationwide bus system, and taxis are plentiful and reasonably priced in the major cities. Rental cars are available at reasonable rates, and roads are fairly good and well marked. All automobiles must be covered by unlimited third-party insurance.
National holidays:
Holidays celebrated nationwide include Independence Day and Jewish holidays. Annually, before Independence Day, there is a National Day of Remembrance to honor the memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Because the Jewish calendar is lunar, the dates of holidays vary from year to year. Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, begins at sundown on Friday and ends 1 hour after sundown on Saturday. All banks and businesses are closed, as is public transportation (except in Haifa). Many restaurants and cafes remain open. Radio and TV operate on Saturday and Jewish holidays, with the exception of Yom Kippur, when all vehicular and commercial activity totally ceases. Sunday is a normal working day. Published by the United States Department of State -- Bureau of Public Affairs -- Office of Public Communication -- Washington, DC -- January 1991 -- Editor: Peter A. Knecht Department of State Publication 7752 Background Notes Series -- This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission; citation of this source is appreciated. For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402.(###)