The state of Israel, officially formed in 1948, has been the subject of international interest because it contains sights significant to three of the world’s major religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. With much of the Holy Land being within the modern state of Israel, both religious Christians and Jews come to Israel to retrace much of the Bible’s accounts of ancient Israel’s history (going back to Abraham, Moses, and Kings David and Solomon).
For a number of years, archeological teams have been actively working various sites in Jerusalem (the capital of the ancient kingdom of Israel and Judah, and the country’s present-day capital), and other parts of the country to recover artifacts relevant to the Bible and the Torah – Jewish written law (a.k.a. the Five Books of Moses). Jerusalem and other parts of what’s now modern Israel (and the Israeli-occupied West Bank territory) were subject to invasion by various powers – from the Assyrians, to the Babylonians, the Greeks under Alexander the Great, the Romans under Pompey, the Byzantine Empire, the Arab conquests of the 7th century and the Ottoman Empire afterwards.
With Ottoman Turkish rule over the country (then known as Palestine) taking place from 1517 to 1920, the movement for the creation of the Jewish state of Israel effectively began when Hungarian-born Jewish writer Theodore Herzl advocated the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine in the late 1890s (as a response to the anti-Semitism that Jews in Russia and other Eastern European countries endured at that time). The creation of a Jewish state, under an international movement known as Zionism (from the word Zion – a reference to Jerusalem), made sense to Jews worldwide, since it would, in effect, re-create the biblical homeland of the Jewish people.
By World War II, there was already a growing Jewish community in Palestine (a territory that was controlled by Great Britain from 1920 to 1948). An armed Jewish resistance movement, along with international political pressure (which intensified because of the Holocaust in Germany & Eastern Europe – where 6 million Jews perished under Nazi rule) resulted in the formation of the State of Israel in 1948. Many of Israel’s future leaders (from David Ben-Gurion to Menachem Begin) were among those who fought British rule over Palestine. The newly formed Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) successfully resisted a pan-Arab invasion from Egypt, Jordan and Syria (which became known as the 1948 Arab-Israeli War). Lingering hostilities by the same Arab countries eventually led to the 1967 Arab-Israeli War (the “Six-Day War”), and the Yom Kippur War (October 1973) which Israel successfully fought (gaining the Sinai and West Bank regions).
Nowadays, Israel encourages the migrations of Jews from all over the world, while developing its thriving tourism sector – ranging from tours of various Biblical towns (including Bethlehem and Nazareth, as well as Jerusalem) to archeological sites (especially from the Roman period), and its beach resorts. With 3.5 million tourists visiting Israel in 2012, tourism represented 6.4% of the country’s GDP. The majority of visitors came from USA, Russia, France, UK, and Germany, while sizable number of travelers came from Italy, Ukraine, Poland, Canada, Netherlands, Brazil and Spain.