Israel lies at the junction of three continents: Africa, Asia and Europe. It is bordered on the west by the Mediterranean Sea, by Lebanon and Syria to the north, Egypt to the south and Jordan to the east. The country is 470 km long, from north to south, and 135km wide at its widest point. It is about a third the size of Tasmania.
Although small in size, Israel encompasses a wide variety of topographical features, including forested highlands and fertile valleys, mountains, desert regions and the semi-tropical Jordan valley. Approximately half the country is semi-arid.
The coastal plain which runs along the Mediterranean Sea is home to almost half of Israel's population. It includes major urban centres, deepwater harbours and most of the country's industrial sites. The Negev, which covers half of Israel's land area, is home to a mere eight per cent of the population, who mainly reside in the northern part of the region. The southern section becomes an arid zone where the climate is drier.
There are several mountain ranges including the Golan Heights in the north-east, the hills of Galilee, Judea and Samaria and those of the Negev.
Israel's main river is the Jordan River, which is fed by tributaries from Mount Hermon. It courses through the Hula Valley, runs into Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) - the country's main reservoir -and then winds through the Jordan Valley, emptying into the very salty Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. There are also small streams that run perennially through the hills of Galilee.
The climate of Israel sees two distinct seasons: summer and winter. The summer extends from May through to October, and is practically without rain. It is humid along the coast and in the Jordan Valley, and very dry in the desert areas and Jerusalem.
The winter season, between November and March, is quite mild, although it gets very cold at night in Jerusalem and the hills of the Galilee. There is often heavy rain and sometimes snow.
The city of Eilat, which sits on the Red Sea in the south of the country, has a good climate all year round for swimming and beach holidays.
Israel's diverse animal and plant life includes more than 500 types of bird, 90 reptile species and 3,000 plant varieties, of which 150 are native to the country. There are 65 national parks and a further 150 nature reserves covering about 1,000 sq km.