Egypt and Israel are countries with similar geography and topography, and history of diplomacy and trade. The land area of modern Egypt spans across North Eastern Africa. Israel, in contrast, is a small country, lying on the southeastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It is only about the size of Massachusetts. Both countries are prime examples of successful commerce and economy in the Middle East. Throughout history, several geographic factors have contributed to the cultural and economic development of each. Both countries’ development has been affected by bodies of water, or lack of, and deserts within their borders or nearby.
The Nile has always been the heart of Egypt. Starting in about 5000 B. C, nomads started moving into the Nile Valley and making permanent settlements there, away from the dry and uninhabitable desert. Cairo, which was founded around 969 A. D. , later became Egypt’s capital due to its location. The city is located on the banks of the Nile River about 150 kilometers south of the Mediterranean coast where the Nile River empties in to the Mediterranean Sea. In between lies the fertile delta, where the river deposits its black silt.
These factors made Cairo a major center of trade and business. Even back in ancient times, the river provided pathways for trade along the Mediterranean and Europe. Life in ancient Egypt revolved around the Nile River because of how the river affected farming. The annual flooding of the Nile and summer monsoons deposit black silt, creating an area known as black land. This black land is ideal for farming, which was one of the driving forces that made Egypt a dominant civilization in ancient times. The Egyptians were able to farm cotton, grain, and papyrus.
Papyrus was harvested from the aquatic plant of the same name, and was used to make an early form of paper. The Egyptians were the first to use papyrus paper as early as 3000 B. C. , and its production spread to Rome and Greece. Most of Egypt was and still is dependent on the Nile for drinking water. Egypt was able to trade with other countries by land and sea. With the Nile reaching through Africa, Egypt was able to import cattle, horses, gold, and pottery from African countries. They exported papyrus, ox hides, linen, and dried fish. The Mediterranean also provided access to Egypt for its enemies.
By the eighteenth century the Ottoman Empire was in control of Egypt. The French tried to colonize Egypt’s land at the beginning of the nineteenth century. By the end of the nineteenth century, Britain had intervened and helped Egypt become an independent country. In Israel, the Mediterranean Sea, the Jordan River, and the coastal plain provided the inhabitants of Israel with fertile farmland and made a good location for trade. The Jordan River provides drinking and irrigation water for the region. The river starts in the Rift Valley in the east and flows into the Dead Sea.
Israel has other rivers, such as the Nahal Kziv and the Dan River, but they are small and only flow during the winter. The Mediterranean coast is a narrow, flat fertile plain. According to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the coastal plain along the Mediterranean is home to most of the country’s industry and more than half of the population, making it the most densely populated region in Israel today. Besides providing irrigation and industry, the Mediterranean also served as a way to export their abundant resources of precious metals like bronze and iron.
The Phoenician armies used metals from Israel to build some of its armor. Historically, people moved from arid lands with no resources to where there was water and abundant resources and developed civilization around those areas. Both countries took advantage of the water surrounding their lands, developed infrastructure and centers of commerce, developed their own agriculture, and became great examples of successful civilization. Egypt is home to uninhabitable and unpassable deserts, while Israel is home to deserts with some signs of civilization. Nonetheless, they are hot, dangerous, and part of both countries.
In Egypt, the Eastern and Sahara deserts make up most of the land. In historical times these deserts protected Egypt’s borders from its enemies. The Eastern desert, starting south of the Nile’s delta, provided large stretches of land that protected Egypt’s eastern borders while the Sahara desert protected the rest of Egypt. The long, dry trips to get into northern Egypt, where the country’s major cities are, provided a barrier against invaders coming from the south and west. These invaders were often groups of African clans or tribes. The Negev desert makes up more than half of Israel.
In the southern region, the Negev is less sandy and more of a dry, rocky land. With its arid and dry conditions, there are few settlements in the desert, but they have existed since biblical times. In fact, early nomads were able to use the winter’s season of rain for agriculture. Over time, people have built civilization in the Negev, with villages and towns across the desert. The largest town is Beersheba, with a population of about two hundred thousand people. Since the Negev is not nearly as large as the Sahara desert, it never provided real protection from invaders, even in biblical times.
Like the Egyptians, Israel was faced with the occupation of other civilizations. The Assyrians defeated the northern land of Israel around 721 B. C. , and the Babylonians took over the southern region around 587 B. C. The Persians freed Israeli after they conquered the Babylonians around 539 B. C. It was not until about 64 B. C. that the Romans took over. The Israeli people started rebelling in about 66 A. D and started a war that lasted eight years.
After the Romans won, the Jewish population was deported from Israel. Until 132 A. D. the majority of the former Israelite population lived on the Mediterranean coast but still under control of Roman authority. By then, a large scale rebellion known as “The Bar-Kokhba Revolt” started. It only lasted until 135 A. D, and once again the Israelites were moved out. But, after the fall of the Roman Empire starting around 410 A. D. , the Israeli population still faced multiple groups of authority, such as the Ottoman Empire and the British. Israel didn’t gain independence until 1967. While Egypt and Israel do share history together, it is, for the most, a history of conflict.
One of the most recent conflicts was the Six-Day War, the third war in the Arab Israeli Wars. In June 1967, in fear of attack from its neighboring countries, Jordan, Egypt, and Syria, Israel launched an attack on all three, crippling their air force. Over the course of a week, Israel conquered Sinai, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. Relationships were restored with Egypt in March1979, signed by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Israel withdrew forces from Sinai, and Egypt agreed to make it a military free zone.
By 1982, they established firm diplomatic relations. Over the course of Egypt and Israel’s history, both countries have been affected by the bodies of water and deserts that make each of their respective geography. The Nile and the Sahara desert helped form Egypt over hundreds of centuries, while the Joran River and the Negev did the same for Israel. Both were affected in major ways, especially when it came to the Mediterranean Sea. Because of the Mediterranean, the rivers, and the deserts, both countries were able to prosper and survive over the course of history.