The Republic of Israel falls under the Western Asia region as defined by the United Nations geoscheme. The country is located in the Middle East along the south-eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. To the north of Israel is Lebanon, to the northeast is Syria, to the east is Jordan, and to the south-west is Egypt.
It is this location of Israel and its proximity to Northern Africa, the Mediterranean Sea, and Southern European nations that gives rise to much confusion about the country’s continental identity.
The Bible speaks of the historic proximity between Israel and Egypt. After having received the commandments on Mt. Sinai, Moses leads the Israelite to Israel. The Land of Canaan, the Promised Land is renamed the Land of Israel. In fact, Moses himself is believed to have married an Ethiopian woman. This historic affinity of Israel with Africa rather than Asia has led to questions about its Asian identity.
The contemporary cultural proximity of Israel to Mediterranean Europe (particularly Cyprus) and its political isolation in the Middle East also imparts it a unique European character. In fact, Israel’s national football team participates in European tournaments and championships including the FIFA. Apart from football, Israel is represented in most other European sporting events and also the Eurovision Song Contest. In 2014, Israel was also admitted as a member of the CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) one of the most prestigious scientific research organizations of the world.
Looking at the demographics of Israel too, one is inclined to feel that the country is more closely aligned with Europe than with Asia. As of 2016, the country’s population is estimated to be about 8,192,463. English, Hebrew, Arabic, and Russian are the commonly spoken languages here.
About 75% of the population is Jewish. A vast majority of these Jews are Sabras or people of indigenous origin but there is also a significant presence of Jews of European origin in the country. In comparison, there are far less people of Asian or African origin living in the country.
While Israel is geographically a part of the Asian continent, culturally it is closer to European nations and also is greatly influenced by African culture.