Palestine before 1948
Demographics: According to the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, in the early 20th century the land of Israel was a mix of many peoples representing some 50 languages. The historian Richard Hartmann comments that prior to the creation of Israel in 1948 these communities were “ethnologically a chaos of all the possible human combinations”, and so did not share a common Arab identity. They included Balkans, Greeks, Syrians, Egyptians, Turks, Armenians, Italians, Persians, Kurds, Germans, Afghans, Bosnians, Sudanese, Algerians and others. According to Professor Bernard Lewis, the land was not a “country” and had no frontiers, only administrative boundaries. The Arab population, which had remained dormant for centuries, began to blossom only after the beginning of Jewish immigration and the subsequent improvements in economic conditions, infrastructure, and agricultural techniques, link.
The founding of Tel Aviv in 1909. Image: Wikimedia Commons
Haifa 1930. Image Wikimedia Commons
First Signs of Growth: The history of modern Israel began in the 1880s when the first Zionist immigrants came to Palestine. They joined the small existing Jewish community, establishing agricultural settlements and some industry, restoring Hebrew as the spoken national language, and creating new economic and social institutions. It is interesting to note that Tel Aviv, now the business hub of Israel, was founded on land purchased from Bedouins, north of the existing city of Jaffa. The photo shows the 1909 auction of the first lots of land. In the period from 1922 to 1947 real net domestic product (NDP) of the Jewish sector grew at an average rate of over 13%, link.
Jewish Population Growth in Palestine/Israel
The Jewish population growth is striking. In 1915 there were just 83,000 Jews living in Palestine. But by the end of 1947 it had reached 630,000 (about 35% of the total population) and by 2015 there were over 6.2 million Jews in Israel, link, link. So in just 100 years the Jewish population saw an amazing 7400% increase! By comparison, over the same period the UK population increased just 55%. We can see this as the natural growth of a young nation (but surely unique?), or as the fulfillment of prophecies in Ezekiel and Isaiah:
Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone … and bring them into their own land … (Ezek 37.21)
I will say to the north ‘Give them up! … bring My sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth’ (Isa 43.6)
Modern Infrastructure Development
AIRPORTS: Ben-Gurion International Airport is Israel’s largest air terminal for international flights and is considered the main air gateway to the country. It has been extensively enlarged with new state-of-the art terminals. Ovda is another airport also used for international flights.
ROADS: In recent years Israel’s road network has been extensively expanded and improved to accommodate the rapid increase in traffic. The new Trans-Israel Highway (Route 6) is a multilane highway transversing Israel from north to south. It is entirely within the 1948 armistice lines (the ‘Green Line’) and bypasses heavily populated areas to provide fast access to most areas of the country. Route 6 will feed a network of highways and bypass roads, so connecting Israel’s peripheral regions to its center and boosting economic growth. Is Route 6 seen in Bible prophecy for a future Israel?
In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians (Isa 19.23, NASB)
WATER SUPPLIES: The National Water Carrier (NWC) was started in 1959 and became Israel’s traditional water ‘artery’. It conveys water from Lake Galilee southwards via a system of giant pipes, open canals and tunnels. Between 2005 and 2015 Israel built five desalination plants on the Mediterranean coast, and a New National Carrier system is planned to connect these to the NWC, link. Desalinated water will flow from west to the north, east, and south. Today some 80% of domestic water in Israeli cities comes from desalinated water, link.
COMMUNICATIONS: In terms of electronic communications, Israel is connected to the world’s major commercial and financial data networks through underwater fiber-optic lines and satellite links. The country ranks high, on a per-capita basis, in telephone lines, computers, and Internet users, and it has one of the world’s highest cellular phone penetration rates.
Israel’s Modern Cities
Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 after Jews decided to leave their poverty infested, squalor stricken neighborhoods in a nearby town. Today, Tel Aviv is Israel’s financial and business capital with an estimated 53,000 businesses operating in the city in 2014, link. Nearby, in Ramat Gan, is the world’s largest diamond exchange and Israel’s tallest skyscraper.
Modern Haifa is Israel’s third largest city and it’s primary port. Ashdod, an old Philistine city, was reborn in 1956 and is now a bustling city full of Jewish immigrants and boasts the nation’s second largest sea port. Eilat, located at the southern tip of Israel is Israel’s premier resort town and a favourite for tourists. Nazareth has grown from an insignificant backwater during the time of Christ (Yeshua) to one of northern Israel’s largest cities. So what we see today is fulfilled prophecy:
They shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations (Isa 61.4)
Economic Growth of Israel
The 1922 British Mandate for Palestine encouraged the establishment of some of the country’s largest factories during the 1920’s, and textile factories were established in the 1930’s. Capital and technical expertise were supplied by Jewish professionals from Europe. Israeli industry underwent rapid development during World War II, and after the war overseas aid from several sources enabled Israel to become economically self-sufficient. Israel’s strong commitment to development led to economic growth rates that exceeded 10% annually and by the late 1960’s, textiles were one of the largest industrial branches in Israel, second only to the foodstuff industry.
The latter half of the twentieth century saw Israel’s economy suffer from war and severe inflation, only the recover due to skilled immigration and several peace processes. The early 21st century again saw an economic down-turn due to the global dot-com bubble, which bankrupted many start-up companies. Today, the main driver of Israel’s economy is the science and technology sector, and there has been an unprecedented inflow of foreign investment into Israel as companies take advantage of Israel’s skilled workforce. The fastest growth rates (typically 8%) are to be found in the hi-tech sectors, which accounted for some 70% of the industrial product in 2006. The overall economic growth rate for 2015 was 2.5% [Bank of Israel].
Government debt as a percent of GDP is used by investors as a measure of a country’s economic health, and compared to many western countries Israel’s gross debt as a percentage of GDP is low. There has been steady improvement from 94% in 2005 to 67% in 2014. Compare this with the UK debt of 41% in 2005 increasing to 91% in 2014. It is claimed that since 2001 Israel has become a net lender nation in terms of net external debt, and that the country maintained a current account surplus in 2010! Although Israel is still largely secular in religious belief, is God blessing Israel as she returns to the land God promised her?
You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow (Deut 28.12)