Here is some background about the modern country of Israel, founded in 1948. It borders the Mediterranean Sea, Egypt, the Red Sea, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon in the Middle East. Since its founding, Israel has experienced conflict with its neighbors, mainly Arab and Muslim countries, and Palestinians living in Israeli-occupied territories.
About Israel: (from the CIA World Fact Book) Area: 20,770 sq km (about the size of New Jersey)
Median age: 29.7
Capital: Jerusalem (although all international embassies are in Tel Aviv)
Ethnic Groups: Jewish 76.4%, non-Jewish 23.6% (mostly Arab)
Religion: Jewish 75.6%, Muslim 16.9%, Christian 2%, Druze 1.7%, other 3.8%
GDP: $252.8 billion (2012 est.)
GDP per capita: $32,800 (2012 est.)
Unemployment: 6.9% (2012 est.)
Other Facts: Large numbers of Jewish people began migrating to Palestine, then part of the Ottoman Empire, in the late 19th century. This was in response to increasing persecution and anti-Semitism in Europe.
Israel is a parliamentary democracy comprised of legislative, executive and judicial branches. The president is head of state, but mostly in a ceremonial sense.
About 93% of the land is owned by the State of Israel, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and the Development Authority, and by law cannot be sold.
Timeline: November 2, 1917 - Great Britain, while occupying Palestine during World War I, supports the establishment of a permanent Jewish state in the Balfour Declaration.
1922 - The Mandate for Palestine is granted by the League of Nations when it recognizes the need for a "Jewish national home."
1936-1939 - Tension between Arabs, Jewish settlers and the British leads to fighting and martial law.
1937 - The British Royal Commission of Inquiry to Palestine, headed by Lord Peel, recommends that the mandate is no longer practical and that Palestine should be partitioned into separate Arab and Jewish states to help alleviate the strong and growing anti-Jewish sentiment.
February 28, 1938 - The Woodhead Commission, the British team sent to work out a plan to implement the separation, concludes that the partitioning proposed by the Peel Commission is impractical.
September 1, 1939-May 8, 1945 - World War II is fought in Europe. More than six million Jewish people are killed in the Holocaust.
July 11, 1947 - The Exodus 1947, previously owned by the U.S. government and called the SS President Warfield, set sail from the port of Sete, near Marseilles, France, for Palestine carrying 4,515 Jewish immigrants, including 655 children, some Holocaust survivors. The British ram and board the ship outside French waters. The British take the ship by force and return it to Port de Bouc, France. The passengers refuse to disembark. The French refuse to force the passengers off the ship. The passengers declare a hunger strike and remain on board for 24 days.
August 22, 1947 - The British escort the ship Exodus 1947 to British-occupied Hamburg, West Germany. There, the Jewish immigrants are removed from the ship and transported to relocation camps near Lubeck. International outrage over returning Jews to Europe changes British policy. Illegal Jewish immigrants are then sent to camps in Cyprus instead.
November 29, 1947 - The United Nations approves a plan for the partition of Palestine.
May 14, 1948 - Great Britain's role in Palestine ends as the independent state of Israel is declared with David Ben-Gurion as Prime Minister.
November 29, 1947-January 1949 - Arab armies invade Israel. The fighting is known as the War for Independence. The war is fought with the nations of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.
January-July 1949 - Armistice talks give Israel 75% of what was Palestine, adding nearly one-third more land to what was the new state of Israel before the invasion. More than 600,000 Arabs flee Israel to become refugees in neighboring countries.