Israel defines itself as a Jewish and Democratic State. It is the world's only Jewish-majority state. The "Land of Israel" is a common theme in the Torah - the Jewish holy book. According to Jewish scripture, the first Kingdom of Israel was established around the 11th Century BCE. Israel went through many kingdoms and states during antiquity, and was conquered by the Persians and, later, the Arabs. After World War II when many Jews looked to Israel as a place to begin again, far from the disasters of Western Europe. There was serious conflict between the Arabs in the region and the incoming Jewish community, but on May 14, 1948, Israel was declared an independent state. Indeed, conflict is still common in the area, but Israel is recognized as an independent democracy by major world powers.
Israel sits at the Eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, and the Jordan River runs through the country, ending at the Dead Sea. Geographically, Israel is very diverse, especially for its small size. Temperatures can vary dramatically across the country, especially during winter months. Religious tourism is an important industry in Israel, and many Jews from around the world travel to the "Holy Land" during their lifetime.