Today Hebrew is spoken by some 5 million people mainly in Israel, where it is an official language along with Arabic. and a further 2 million people speak the language in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Palestinian West Bank and Gaza, Panama, the UK and USA. Modern Hebrew became an official language in British-ruled Palestine in 1921 (along with English and Arabic), and then in 1948 became an official language of the newly declared State of Israel. Hebrew is the most widely spoken language in Israel today.
Following World War II, the British withdrew from their mandate of Palestine, and Arabs. Subsequently, the Israelis defeated the Arabs in a series of wars without ending the deep tensions between the two sides. (The territories Israel occupied since the 1967 war are not included in the Israel country profile, unless otherwise noted.) On 25 April 1982, Israel withdrew from the Sinai pursuant to the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. In keeping with the framework established at the Madrid Conference in October 1991, bilateral negotiations were conducted between Israel and Palestinian representatives and Syria to achieve a permanent settlement. Israel and Palestinian officials signed on 13 September 1993 a Declaration of Principles (also known as the “Oslo Accords”), enshrining the idea of a two-state solution to their conflict and guiding an interim period of Palestinian self-rule. Outstanding territorial and other disputes with Jordan were resolved in the 26 October 1994 Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace. Progress toward a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians was undermined by Israeli-Palestinian violence between 2001 and February 2005. Israel in 2005 unilaterally disengaged from the Gaza Strip, evacuating settlers and its military while retaining control over most points of entry into the Gaza Strip. The election of HAMAS to head the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006 froze relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). In 2006 Israel engaged in a 34-day conflict with Hizballah in Lebanon in June-August 2006 and a 23-day conflict with HAMAS in the Gaza Strip during December 2008 and January 2009. Direct talks with the Palestinians launched in September 2010 collapsed following the expiration of Israel’s 10-month partial settlement construction moratorium in the West Bank. In November 2012, Israel engaged in a seven-day conflict with HAMAS in the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Binyamin NETANYAHU formed a coalition government in March 2013 following general elections in January 2013. Direct talks with the Palestinians resumed in July 2013 and are ongoing.
West Bank and Gaza Strip are Israeli-occupied with current status subject to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement—permanent status to be determined through further negotiation; Israel continues construction of a “seam line” separation barrier along parts of the Green Line and within the West Bank; Israel withdrew its settlers and military from the Gaza Strip and from four settlements in the West Bank in August 2005; Golan Heights is Israeli-occupied (Lebanon claims the Shab’a Farms area of Golan Heights); since 1948, about 350 peacekeepers from the UN Truce Supervision Organization headquartered in Jerusalem monitor ceasefires, supervise armistice agreements, prevent isolated incidents from escalating, and assist other UN personnel in the region Refugees and internally displaced persons: refugees (country of origin): 37,347 (Eritrea); 10,743 (Sudan) (2012).
Stateless persons: 14 (2012)
Illicit drugs: increasingly concerned about ecstasy, cocaine, and heroin abuse; drugs arrive in country from Lebanon and, increasingly, from Jordan; money-laundering center.
(End of excerpt from the CIA World FactBook text.)
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