General Information about Israel
Israel's story is arguably one of the most fascinating in the annals of world history. Not only is Israel the world's only Jewish-majority state, it was founded - after nearly a 2000 year exile - in the same land where the Jewish People were sovereign for centuries.
As a result of a wellspring of interest in returning to the ancient homeland of the Jewish People to establish a modern state in the mid-late 19th century, many Jews began moving to the area. Known since the Roman times as Palestine, the Jews began settling the country and establishing the foundations of what would ultimately become the State of Israel. Following the 1947 United Nations decision to partition the area into Jewish and Arab states, Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948. Neighboring Arab states invaded the next day. Since then, Israel has fought a series of wars with neighboring Arab states, and in the 1967 Six Day war conquered the West Bank of the Jordan River from then Trans-Jordan, the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt and the Golan Heights from Syria.
While the complex political situation vis-a-vis the Palestinians remains unresolved, Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan.
The population of Israel, was estimated in February 2011 to be 7,718,600 people, of whom 5,818,200 are Jewish. Arab citizens of Israel form by far the country's second-largest ethnic group, which includes Muslims and Christians. Other minorities are Druze, Circassians and Samaritans. According to the May 2010 population estimate, including 300,000 "non-citizen" Arabs living in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, these minorities number 1,579,700.
Israel is located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and Israel contains geographically diverse features within its relatively small area.
Government & Judicial System
Israel operates under a parliamentary system as a democratic republic with universal suffrage. The President of Israel is the head of state, but his duties are limited and largely ceremonial. A Parliament Member supported by a majority in parliament becomes the Prime Minister, usually the chairman of the largest party. The Prime Minister is the head of government and head of the Cabinet. Israel is governed by a 120-member parliament, known as the Knesset. Membership of the Knesset is based on proportional representation of political parties, with a 2% electoral threshold, which always results in coalition governments.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled every four years, but unstable coalitions or a no-confidence vote by the Knesset can dissolve governments earlier. The Basic Laws of Israel function as an uncodified constitution. In 2003, the Knesset began to draft an official constitution based on these laws.
Israel has a three-tier court system. At the lowest level are magistrate courts, situated in most cities across the country. Above them are district courts, serving both as appellate courts and courts of first instance; they are situated in five of Israel's six districts. The third and highest tier in Israel is the Supreme Court, seated in Jerusalem. It serves a dual role as the highest court of appeals and the High Court of Justice. In the latter role, the Supreme Court rules as a court of first instance, allowing individuals, both citizens and non-citizens, to petition against decisions of state authorities. Israel's legal system combines three legal traditions: English common law, civil law, and Jewish law.
(Sources include: Wikipedia)