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Israel

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The State of Israel is a country in Western Asia on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea. It is a parliamentary democracy and the world's only Jewish state.

Israel is bordered by Lebanon in the north, Syria, Jordan and the West Bank in the east, and Egypt and the Gaza Strip in the south-west. It has coastlines on the Mediterranean in the west and the Gulf of Eilat (also known as the Gulf of Aqaba) in the south.

During the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel captured the West Bank from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, Gaza Strip (which was under Egyptian occupation), and Sinai from Egypt. It withdrew all troops and settlers from Sinai by 1982 and from the Gaza Strip by September 12, 2005. The future status of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights remains to be determined.

The total area of the sovereign territory of Israel - excluding all territories captured by Israel in 1967 - is 20,770 km˛ or 8,019 mi˛; (1% water). The total area under Israeli law - including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights - is 22,145 km˛ or 8,550 mi˛; with a little less than one per cent being water. The total area under Israeli control - including the military-controlled and Palestinian-governed territory of the West Bank - is 28,023 km˛ or 10,820 mi˛ (~1% water).

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In getting around Israel, be aware primarily of the Sabbath: from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown, there is effectively no public transportation available in Israel (except in Haifa and Eilat, and limited sherut services - shared taxis, see below). Unless you have a car, if you're daytripping on a Friday, you should start thinking about how to get back by noon at the latest, and you should plan on staying near your lodgings on Saturday.

Also note that both youth and students usually get discounts at buses and trains. Showing a valid student ID will usually entitle you for 10% discount for one-way long-distance travel, while for short distance bus travel those below the age of 18 can usually get half-priced Kartysia - a pack of 20 tickets.

Living and travelling costs in Israel are almost on a par with Western Europe, North America and Australasia, making it by far the most 'expensive' country in the Middle East region.

Sellers in small food kiosks (known as "Pitzutziot") will often try to overcharge people for soft drinks, cigarettes and candy. Take note that currently (Feb 2007) the price of a soft drink can is between 3 and 7 sheckels and a 0.5CL bottle is generally one sheckel more expensive than a can. Prices in tourist areas in big cities, especially tourist cities like Eilat can be up to 20 sheckels per 0.5CL bottle, however often a small walk will reveal the more local places that will sell you 6 1.5CL bottles for as cheap as 14 sheckels.