Israel Economic History

National name of the set of tribes making up the Jewish people, used, according to the custom of Semitic onomastics, both absolutely and in the expression “children of Israel” (b e n ē Yi ś r ā ‘ ē l). From this last context it is clear that the Israelites recognized themselves as descendants of a common progenitor, named Israel. This progenitor, that is the father of the twelve tribes that in historical times constitute the Israelite people, is originally called Jacob, son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, in the stories of Genesis that narrate the origin and the events, up to the moment in which his name is changed to that of Israel, in the circumstances narrated in Gen. XXXII, 25-33.

Jacob, while going to his brother Esau with the intention of appeasing him, camped one night by the river Yabbog, struggles for a long time with a stranger, who, unable to overcome him, touches him on the hip making him lame, then asks him to be let go, because dawn is near; but Jacob refuses unless he blesses him first. And the other, consenting, announces that his name will be changed to that of Israel, because “you fought with God (or” with gods? “) And with men and you remained superior”. The verb śā r ā is used to “fight”, which does not appear in the Bible except in the passage Hosea, XII, 4-5, where the same story is told, in manifest dependence on this place, or at least on the same tradition. This circumstance, and the fact that the analogy of other Jewish theophoric names composed in a similar way would require that the name be interpreted as “He fights”, have led many critics to deny the explanation given by the biblical text, considering it a popular etymology. But on the real etymology of the name (also attested outside the Bible in cuneiform documents, in the Egyptian stele of king Merneptah, in the inscription of Mesa) no agreement was reached; unlikely is the hypothesis that reconnects it with the name of Sara, which is also of obscure meaning.

After the division of the kingdom under Rehoboam, Israel more especially pointed to the northern kingdom, as opposed to the southern kingdom, Judah.

Economic conditions

According to ebizdir, the chronic shortage of water, the absence of natural resources, the interminable conflict with the nation Palestinian and difficult relations with neighboring Arab countries have not prevented Israel from establishing itself as the most economically advanced and dynamic country in the Near East. The GDP, which between 1980 and 1990 had increased in real terms by 3.5% per year, in the following decade reached growth rates of more than 5%; after the international crisis of 2001-02 it started to grow again, albeit at a slower pace (3.9% in 2008). Growth was driven above all by the tertiary and industrial sectors, with an increase in fixed investments, especially in industrial machinery. As a result of the containment policies implemented in the early 2000s, the public debt fell below the threshold of 100% of GDP (75.7% in 2008 against 103% in 2004). Inflationary pressures (4, shekels against major foreign currencies. The huge US aid as well as the Jewish capital flowed in from all over the world have made it possible not only to support the huge military expenses, but also to fuel an economy clearly oriented towards technological innovation and research. Israel is in second place in the world (after the USA) for the number of start-up companies, in first place (excluding North America) for companies listed on the NASDAQ list, in first place again for the percentage of researchers and technicians out of the total number of employees (140 out of 10,000). This is where irrigation technologies (drip irrigation and micro-irrigation) have been developed that have made Israeli agriculture an unsurpassed model of efficiency. And it is here that to make up for the lack of energy raw materials, in addition to nuclear energy, the focus was strongly on alternative energies (especially solar). The sustained pace of growth made it possible to bring the unemployment rate down to 6.1% in 2008. As regards the sectoral division of labor, the share of agriculture has now been reduced to 2% of the total employed and that of industry to 16%,

Despite the decrease in employees and the reduced amount of useful surface (thanks to powerful hydraulic works the agricultural area used today is about 200,000 ha), agricultural production is constantly increasing, it is able to cover internal needs (except for the wheat) and feeds important export flows (cotton, citrus fruits, grapes, vegetables, legumes). The land is almost always owned by the State and the Jewish National Fund and is given in concession to cooperative organizations (kibbutz).

Industry, despite the lack of natural and energy resources (90% of energy needs are imported), is particularly diversified. The traditional iron and steel (Akko and Ashqelon steel mills), chemical, petrochemical (Haifa refineries), mechanical and textile productions have been joined by companies operating in the new economy: telecommunications (Tel Aviv), security systems (Romat Gan), information technology (Herzlyya and Haifa). The diamond industry is of particular importance, which now sees Israel in second place in the world, after Belgium, in the cutting sector. Finally, tourism development is good, although the inflows are subject to heavy fluctuations linked to the situation of conflict with the Palestinian population.

The Israeli economy, due to the small size of the internal market, the scarce availability of natural resources and raw materials and the complex geopolitical situation is by its nature strongly linked to international trade. In 2008, Israel imported goods and services for 62.52 billion dollars (35.3 in 2005, excluding diamonds) and exported for 54.16 billion (26.6 in 2005, excluding diamonds). The main trading partner remains the USA, although trade relations with the EU and especially with China are in a positive trend. The growing opening of the market, the privatization policy, the development of the new economy have led to a boom in foreign direct investments, which reached 9.7 billion dollars in 2005 (+ 67% compared to 2004).


The profound diversity of places of origin that characterizes the population of the current state of Israel has not allowed the development of forms of national musical expression, except for a generic recovery of basic musical formulas, which have remained unchanged within the Jewish communities during the diaspora. However, contemporary composers follow the various Western currents of our time; remember P. Ben-Haim (1897-1984), R. Haubenstock-Ramati (1919-1994), M. Avidom (1908-1995) and others. Among the institutions we should mention the Philharmonic Orchestra of Israel, certainly one of the largest artistic ensembles in the world, theaters, choirs, conservatories and institutes (among which the conservatory and the Academy of Music of Israel stand out).

Israel Economic History

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