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Is Israel in Europe or Asia? 9 Things to Know

Israel is one of the most loved holiday destinations with a rich history and great locations. While the hot climate makes Israel one of the favorite places for summer, Israel is in an important position geographically.

A few years ago, I had the chance to be in Tel Aviv, one of the most frequented spots in Israel.  With its colorful people and vibrant life, Tel Aviv was truly breathtaking as a vacation destination. When I talked to my friends who had been there before, I realized that they also agreed with me.

Israel is geographically located in Asia. Yet, sometimes Israel is considered a European country because Israel has deep historical, economical and social connections to Europe. Israel is also accepted as a Western country, and in the UN, Israel is a member of the Western European and Other States Group.

In European politics, Israel is treated as a Western but a non-European country similar to Canada, the USA, and Australia. For this reason, Israel is not a member of major European organizations like the European Union or the Council of Europe. 

Yet unlike other non- European countries, Israel takes part in European sport and cultural organizations. 

In non-political European organizations, Israel is treated as a European country. For this reason, Israel is a full member of UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) and takes part in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Why is Israel considered a European Country?

Israel is an Asian country, and Israel is not located in Europe. Yet, Israel has strong ties with Europe.

The relations of the European countries and Israel mostly follow a positive economic path. The European Union is Israel’s biggest trade partner.

The Association Agreement of 1995 is the primary legal affiliation between Israel and the EU. EU and Israel’s relations follow mainly EU’s neighborhood and regional policies.

In my opinion, the tension between Palestine and Israel, is the major block that prevents  Israel from integrating more closely to European politics and European organizations.

Cyprus is also considered an Asian country, yet Cyprus is a full member of the European Union. 

Israel could have been accepted into the European Union just like Cyprus, but Israel’s conflict with Palestine is strongly criticized by European human rights organizations.

Netta, performing her song “Toy” which brought her and Israel victory in 63rd Eurovision at Lisbon in 2018. Source

Why is Israel in Eurovision?

Israel is the first non-European country that was given the right to participate in the Eurovision Contest. 

Since 1973, Israel has participated 43 times and became the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 4 times. Israel won the contest in 1978,1979, 1998 and 2018.

The reason behind the permission of the entry of Israel into the contest was initiated with the fact that Israel was already a broadcaster of the show and took part in the voting process before. 

Yet, I believe that the real reason for Israel’s entry into the European contest is their culture’s similarity to European cultures. Israel was founded by Jewish people who mostly migrated from Europe.

Jerusalem is city with many tales to tell. Source: Wikipedia.

Is Jerusalem Israel’s capital?

According to the Israeli government, Jerusalem is the official capital of Israel. Yet, the UN does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Most countries maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv. 

The US also recognized the capital of Israel as Tel Aviv until 2017.

Yet, the USA changed its political stance during Donald Trump’s Presidency and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocated the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is a disputed city between Israel and Palestine, and both countries consider Jerusalem as their capital.

Most of the member countries of the United Nations did not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Also, some countries do not recognize Israel as a country, and some do not recognize Palestine as a country.

There are many reasons and sides to the dispute between Palestine and Israel.

Is Israel in Africa?

There are some misconceptions about Israel’s geographical location about Israel being in Africa. Since Israel shares borders with Egypt, an African country, some people assume Israel, too, is in the African continent. 

Despite being close to the African continent, all Israel territory is located in Asia. The region Israel is located in is called Western Asia or the Middle East.  Egypt is the only African country that is a neighbor of Israel.

The other neighbors of Israel are all Asian and Middle Eastern countries. Israel’s neighbors are Lebanon in the north, to the east by Jordan, to the northeast by Syria, and to the southwest by Egypt. 

Israel is also bounded to the west and east by the Palestinian territories of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Their borders are still disputed to this day.

What are the 5 major cities in Israel?

Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Rishon LeZion and Petah Tikva are 5 major Israeli cities.

Jerusalem

Jerusalem is the biggest city of Israel and one of the oldest cities in the world. According to a 2020 survey, the current population of Jerusalem is 932,000.

Jerusalem is an important religious site, and that is why it attracts many tourists from the major religions such as Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Jerusalem is also a place that is mentioned in the four holy books. 

Yet, the political events experienced in the past and recently, caused a decrease in the number of tourists.

Still, there are several disputes and tensions about the status of Jerusalem. The city is beautifully rich in historic places and food diversity. You can find many kinds of food related to Jewish and Arab cultures. 

Tel Aviv

The second-largest and the most crowded city of Israel,  is Tel Aviv. The city has a population of  451,520 residents, 

Tel Aviv is known for its warm climate,  great historical sites, long beaches stretching to the Red Sea, and nightlife.

Tel Aviv is Israel’s most visited and economically contributing city. Besides being a major holiday destination, Tel Aviv is also the center of the Israeli economy. 

The city also houses the largest companies in the country. 

Haifa

The third-largest city of Israel, with a population of 280.000 residents, is Haifa. 

Matam, one of the oldest and largest high-tech parks in Israel, is located in this city. 

The city also plays an important role in the relatively new religion called the Baháʼí Faith.

Many tourists and visitors visit the Israel National Museum of Science, Technology, and Space, and it is one of the important places in the city.

Rishon LeZion

The fourth-largest city of Israel is Rishon LeZion, with a population of 254,384 residents. The city was first established as a farm settlement. 

The main economic sectors of the city are wine, construction, services and commerce.

Rishon LeZion is famous for the accomplishments that they had in handball.

The entertainment sector is also well developed with many pubs and venues.

 In addition, the annual wine festival takes place in this city. Many famous artists from Mariah Carey to Ozzy Osbourne have also performed here.

Petah Tikva High-Tech Park. Source Wikipedia.

Petah Tikva

Petah Tikva is the last city among the five major cities of Israel. 

The population of Petah Tikva is 247,956. The city is also classified as the second-largest industrial city in Israel after Haifa. 

Is Israel a first world country?

Israel is a first world country for two reasons. Israel was an ally of the USA during the Cold War. The second reason is that Israel is an advanced country with strong economic and political power.

In the Human Development Index ranking, Israel ranks first in the Middle East, fifth in Asia, and 18th in the world ranking. 

Israel is also equivalent to many first world countries in terms of quality of life and standard of living. In the Quality of Life Index ranking, Israel is the 24th country in the world.

Is Israel a rich country?

Since independence in 1948, Israel established strong and stable economic growth in a short time.

Now, Israel is a developed economy with an advanced economical structure. 

According to the World Bank, Israel’s estimated GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is 402 Billion USD. Israel ranks 43rd in the list of the richest countries.

GDP per capita is $44,474 in Israel. The high GDP per capita means Israeli people enjoy the same living standards comparable to rich European countries.

What language is spoken in Israel?

The official language of Israel is Hebrew and Arabic. 

A huge minority of Israeli people are Jewish people who migrated from Soviet Russia. For this reason, Russian is natively spoken by %15 of the Israeli population. 

English is commonly spoken as a secondary language. 

What is Israel most famous for?

Israel is mostly known for being the only country that has a majority of the Jewish population. 

Israel is the only country in the world with a Jewish majority population.

Jerusalem, the holy place for Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Being an important religious center, is also another key element Israel is famous for. 

Jerusalem attracts tourists worldwide as a pilgrimage site as well as a holiday destination. 

The entertainment industry and clubs are very popular in Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv-Yafo and its nightlife are also one of the characteristics of Israel. 

Israel cuisine is also another delicious feature of Israel. Israel cuisine is a fusion of Mediterranean and Middle East cuisine.  

Falafel (at the bottom) and hummus (in the middle) are some of the most beloved dishes consumed in Israel. Source: Wikipedia.