Jerusalem, capital of Israel and seat of its government, is the country¡¯s largest city. Its population of some 634,000 (including about 14,000 Christians) is a mosaic of diverse national, religious and ethnic communities. Jerusalem is a city with carefully preserved and restored historical sites and modern edifices, ever-expanding suburbs, commercial districts, shopping malls, high-tech industrial parks and landscaped green areas. It is both an ancient and a modern city, with treasures from the past and plans for the future.
The sanctity of Jerusalem is recognized by the three great monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - but the nature of that sanctity differs for the three faiths.
Established in 1909, Tel Aviv¡¯s founding fathers had only modest ambitions for the new community. While nearby Rishon Lezion and Petah Tikvah were agricultural settlements, they envisioned Tel Aviv as a garden suburb and commuter satellite of the neighboring city Jaffa. The name Tel Aviv is mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel as a town in Babylon; it was chosen because of its old-new connotations in Hebrew: Tel is a mound of layers of ancient civilizations, while Aviv means spring, the season of renewal.
Tel Aviv quickly blossomed into a flourishing metropolis as waves of Jewish immigrants, fleeing the anti-Semitism of Europe, arrived in the region, first from Russia, then Poland then Nazi Germany. By the 1930s, Tel Aviv rivaled Jerusalem, the 3,000 year-old city which Jews cherished and longed for throughout two millennia of exile, as a major Jewish city. If Jerusalem symbolized the glory of Jewish history, then Tel Aviv represented the promise of a prosperous future.
Israel's major port and an important center of industry and commerce, Haifa spreads over the slopes of Mt. Carmel, which commands a breathtaking view of the city and the bay. Haifa has approximately 250,000 inhabitants.
The city is divided into four major areas: the lower city area - the port is situated here as well as residential neighborhoods and beaches. The bay area - the industrial zone is concentrated here. Hadar Hacarmel area - the older neighborhoods, commercial center and offices are located here. Mt. Carmel area - residential and newer neighborhoods are located here, as well as the city's entertainment, cultural and tourist centers.