Social Studies for 10th EGB
Teacher: Mauricio Torres
Today Israel is a very different place from
when its founders first cleared, irrigated and
farmed the land. Its landscape is different. Its
diverse economy is different. Even the
character of its people is different.
Since gaining its independence, Israel has raced
along a path of urgent and rapid development
to become one of the most technologically
advanced countries in the world.
When the first Zionists arrived in Palestine,
people were already living along the fertile
coastal plains in the valleys of the highland
The land available for the new residents, was either
mosquito-infested swamps or barren deserts.
Little by little they drained the swamps, and
coaxed water into the desert.
This has been a priority to the government, to turn
the desert into productive, fertile land.
The Negev Desert is the driest
region and covers over half the
They have built a series of
pipelines, canals and tunnels
called the National Water
Carrier. This irrigates large
sections of the Negev desert.
This has turned once barren lands
into fertile pastures and Israel now
produces almost all of its own food.
Transforming the Desert
But having an agricultural
success, has its price:
Israel is straining its water
Israel has successfully developed
its few natural resources.
However, those industries alone
could not produce enough
employment opportunities to
support the nation’s rapidly
Israelis looked in part to high
technology to help its struggling
With grants and loans, their highly
trained scientists and engineers
were able to make Israel a world
medial laser technology, sophisticated
weaponry, aerospace equipment and
To support its growing population,
they also developed a service
industry to supply its growing
population (education, housing,
Israelis have different
backgrounds, but about 80% of
them are Jewish.
But even so, these Jews migrated
from all over the world, so there
is a huge diversity even amongst
But another group (20%) living in
Israel are the Arabs.
Historically, Israel had
Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews
migrating. But lately, Ethiopian
and former Soviet Union have
began to migrate also.
So, besides the obvious cultural
differences, there are also huge
political differences among them.
Representatives in the Knesset,
Israel’s parliament, range from
ultra-Orthodox to non-religious
Ultra-Orthodox Jews adhere strictly
to Jewish religious tradition and
believe Israel should be governed
The nonreligious believe in a
Clashes between both factions
have made Israel a boiling pot of
political conflicts. They never seem
to find an agreement on important
This diverse group include:
Christians, Muslims and Druzes
(independent people who broke
away from Islam)
As a minority, they hold a
different place in Israeli society.
Israeli Arabs are citizens of Israel.
As such, they have full political
They serve in the Knesset, they enjoy
the free press and in some cases, they
are allowed to form political parties.
Nevertheless, they feel that in
education, employment and other
areas, they are being
Another major challenge for
Israel, is that it must build a
lasting peace with
Palestinians and its other
Cooperation and conflict
By the end of the war in 1949,
most of the Palestinians had lost
their homes and more than
500,000 had migrated. At the
same time, Jews from other
Middle East countries were
In the following wars,
Palestinians were confined to the
Gaza Strip, near the Egyptian
border and the West Bank.
In the 60s, many of these refugee
camps became bases for the
Organization (PLO) – the
Palestinian’s government in exile.
The PLO demanded that
Palestine be liberated and also
refused to recognize Israel as a
They gained attention by hijacking
planes, kidnapping and killing Israeli
civilians and conducting raids on
The Israelis view the PLO as
terrorist, while the Palestinians
look at them as freedom
As the PLO set bases in Lebanon,
Israel attacked Lebanon and
even invaded it in 1982.
After this, many Palestinians left
Lebanon for good.
At the same time, more Israelis
were settling in the occupied
territories – an issue which
worried the Palestinians
During the 70s and 80s, thousands of
lives were lost on both sides, mostly
Palestinians refused to recognize Israel and
the Israelis refused to create a Palestinian
In 1987, the Palestinians launched an
intifada (“shaking off”, in Arabic) as a
resistance movement. Israelis
responded with military force.
Struggle for a solution
Peace talks resumed in Oslo in 1991
but they proceed at a very slow pace.
In Oslo, Norway, they finally agreed
Israel would withdraw from the Gaza
Strip and West Bank;
while the Palestinians would assume
authority for self governance. In the
Still, Israelis still settled in these areas
and Palestinians threatened Israel.
During the late 90s, Israeli and Palestinian
representatives negotiated with each other.
Israeli leaders feared what price would
Israel have to pay for peace.
In the year 200, the Palestinians started a
new intifada with suicide bombings, and
once again, Israeli military force was used.
With Mahmoud Abbas, a more moderate
Palestinian leader, there were high hopes of
reaching peace soon.
Closer to Peace