Following decades of tumultuous political and cartographic struggle, Israel was created as a Jewish state after World War II, setting the stage for decades of bitter divisions between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East. An Israeli victory in a number of separate conflicts and Israel's close ties to the West have exacerbated the ongoing religious and territorial tensions with her Muslim neighbors and with indigenous Palestinians. Bordering on the Mediterranean and Dead Seas, Israel has a coastline of 169 miles (273 kilometers). The terrain is diverse, ranging from the Negev Desert in the south to low coastal plains and central mountains to the Jordan Rift Valley. Israel has a temperate climate, and the southern and eastern desert areas are hot and dry. The country ...

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