Knowledge is key

by | Feb 29, 2024 | Israel, Other News

Israel’s war with Hamas has resulted in vocal and aggressive anti-Zionism and antisemitism across the globe. Many American Jews lack basic knowledge about Israel to converse with certainty about the sole democracy in the Middle East.

Beginning with this column, in each issue, Jewish News will present a few very basic facts about Israel, as knowledge transforms to confidence.

  • As of 2023, Israel’s population is more than nine million people. (
  • 74% of Israel’s population is Jewish, 21% is Arab, and 5% is neither. (
  • Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948. (
  • Israel joined the United Nations in 1949. (
  • Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. (
  • Israel measures about 260 miles north-to-south and 70 miles east-to-west at its widest point. (
  • Israel is comparable to New Jersey in size. “Imagine you’re living in Newark and someone is firing rockets from the other side of the Hudson River,” says Steven E. Zipperstein, an assistant adjunct professor at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs (
  • The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces and consists of the army, air force and navy. It was founded during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War by consolidating paramilitary organizations.

Most Israelis are conscripted at age 18. Men serve two years and eight months and women two years. Following mandatory service, Israeli men join the reserve forces and usually do up to several weeks of reserve duty every year until their forties. Most women are exempt from reserve duty. Arab citizens of Israel (except the Druze) and those engaged in full-time religious studies are exempt, although the exemption of yeshiva students has been a source of contention. (