The State of Israel was founded in 1948. This followed a brief civil war between Arab Palestinian and Jewish communities after the November 1947 UN vote to partition the former British mandate of Palestine. British forces withdrew in 1948 and the State of Israel declared independence.
Since the late 19th century, Jewish people had been emigrating to the Holy Land, influenced by Zionist calls for a Jewish homeland. Migration continued when Britain took over from the former Ottoman Empire after World War 1, and increased after the Nazi Holocaust and UN vote for partition. Palestinian Arabs had mostly been native to the Holy Land. The civil war and subsequent 1948-49 regional Arab-Israeli war led hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to flee and become exiles from their homes.
Without effective governing institutions in the former mandate, remaining areas of Palestine came under control of Jordan (the West Bank) and Egypt (the Gaza Strip) until their capture by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War. A subsequent United Nations resolution (Resolution 242), calling for withdrawal of Israeli forces from newly occupied territories, and for recognition for states (including Israel) to live in peace within secure, agreed boundaries has been central to attempts to settle the Arab-Israel conflict.
‘The Holy Land’ has remained turbulent for over 60 years. Palestinians resent the loss of homes and land and aspire to have their own independent national status. Israelis, meanwhile, have felt threatened by those Arab states like Syria, which remain hostile to its existence, and fearful of violence by Palestinian militants. Since 1993’s ‘Oslo Accords’, agreed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Palestinians have begun to take steps towards self-rule in Gaza and the West Bank. However, progress has been held up by clashes and divisions between the Fatah party-dominated Palestinian Authority, governing the West Bank, and the Hamas movement currently controlling the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli government is a parliamentary democracy in which Zionist parties dominate and are split between social democrats, conservatives and Jewish religious parties. Israel transferred security and civilian responsibility for many Palestinian-populated areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to a new Palestinian Authority (PA) between 1994 and 1999. The PA has a democratically elected president and elected government in the West Bank. However, agreement between Fatah and Hamas has so far proved impossible and led to Hamas’ seizure of government institutions in Gaza in 2007.
Israel benefits from an advanced market economy and high inflows of foreign investments. Major exports include high technology equipment, cut diamonds, fruit and vegetables. Large offshore gasfields discovered in 2010 will boost its economy in coming years. Unemployment is estimated at 5.6%. 
In the Palestinian Territories, the West Bank has experienced reasonable economic growth since 2008 as the Palestinian Authority successfully implemented economic and security reforms. Standards of living have returned to late 1990s levels. However, much growth has been via donor aid and economic growth is hampered by lack of access to land and resources. In the Gaza Strip, Israeli-imposed border closures, especially since Hamas’ control of the territory, have exacerbated already high unemployment, estimated at 40%. 
Social unrest is dominated by the tensions between Palestinians and Jews and wider regional tensions, such as rocket attacks by the Lebanon-based militant Hezbollah party. A major issue is the continued expansion of Israeli settlements on land claimed by Palestinians and settlers’ freedom to come and go without the military restrictions Palestinians experience. The lack of access to land for Palestinians, including restrictions caused by Israel’s security barrier, add to their economic difficulties. Unemployment rates contrast sharply with those for Israelis. In the Gaza Strip, some 38% of people are estimated to live below the poverty line. 
Israel’s state broadcaster has one Hebrew and one Arabic TV channel. There are 5 commercial channels and access to multiple channels via satellite and cable TV. Israel’s press is the only one in the region rated ‘free’ by Freedom House. The Palestinian Authority operates 1 TV and 1 radio station. About 30 independent TV and 25 radio stations can also be received in the West Bank; Gaza Strip is served by one TV station and around 10 radio stations. SAT-7’s broadcasts are watched by Arabic speakers in the Holy Land but precise figures are unknown.
Religious affiliation in Israel is split between Judaism (75%), Islam (16.9%), Christian (2%), Druze (1.7%) and others (3.8%). In the West Bank, Muslims (mostly Sunni) comprise 75% of the population, Jews 17% and Christians and others 8%. In the Gaza Strip, 99.3% of the population is Muslim (mainly Sunni) and Christians 0.7%. 
- Give thanks for the faithful witness of Christians, despite the social, religious and political pressures they often face.
- Pray for progress towards peaceful, just self-rule in Gaza and the West Bank, and for just policies on behalf of the Israeli government towards Palestinian and Jew.
- Pray that Palestinian Christians in Gaza and the West Bank will not be targeted by militant factions but will be able to model just and peaceful responses to their struggles.
- Pray for those Arab Christians and Messianic Jews in Israel who seek to work together as people of reconciliation and pray that they will be able to promote understanding and united witness.