Israel Travel Guide
Island Trips Middle East offers travel tips and information for top travel places and best destinations. We feature links, resources and large selection of budget airlines, chartered planes, sea cruises, ferries, travel agencies, land transports and attractions including beaches, medical tourism, retirement homes, historical and pilgrimage tours.
Israel is considered one of the most advanced countries in Southwest Asia in economic and industrial development. The country is ranked 3rd in the region on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index as well as in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report. It has the second-largest number of startup companies in the world (after the United States) and the largest number of NASDAQ-listed companies outside North America.
In 2008, Israel had the 50th-highest gross domestic product and 31nd-highest gross domestic product per capita (at purchasing power parity) at $202.6 billion and $28,474, respectively. In 2007, Israel was invited to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which promotes cooperation between countries that adhere to democratic principles and operate free market economies. Subsequently the New Israeli Shekel was announced as one of 17 freely convertible currencies according to the CLS list.
Despite limited natural resources, intensive development of the agricultural and industrial sectors over the past decades has made Israel largely self-sufficient in food production, apart from grains and beef. Other major imports to Israel, totaling $47.8 billion in 2006, include fossil fuels, raw materials, and military equipment. Leading exports include fruits, vegetables, pharmaceuticals, software, chemicals, military technology, and diamonds; in 2006, Israeli exports reached $42.86 billion.
Israel is a global leader in water conservation and geothermal energy, and its development of cutting-edge technologies in software, communications and the life sciences have evoked comparisons with Silicon Valley. Intel and Microsoft built their first overseas research and development centers in Israel, and other high-tech multi-national corporations, such as IBM, Cisco Systems, and Motorola, have opened facilities in the country. In July 2007, U.S. billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway bought an Israeli company Iscar, its first non-U.S. acquisition, for $4 billion. Since the 1970s, Israel has received economic and military aid from the United States, whose loans account for the bulk of Israel's external debt.
Tourism, especially religious tourism, is an important industry in Israel, with the country's temperate climate, beaches, archaeological and historical sites, and unique geography also drawing tourists. Israel's security problems have taken their toll on the industry, but the number of incoming tourists is on the rebound. In 2008, over 3 million tourists visited Israel.
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. Marcel Proust
Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. Mary Ritter Beard