Israel is on the eastern Mediterranean, bordered by Lebanon and Syria to the north, the Palestine National Authority (West Bank) and Jordan to the east, and Egypt to the south. Gaza, a small coastal strip between Israel and Egypt, is claimed by the Palestine National Authority, but under de facto rule by the militant group Hamas.
Although only the size of Massachusetts, Israel contains a great variety of terrain and four climate zones. The north of the country is the fertile hill region of Galilee, rising to Mount Hermon and Golan in the northeast. The fertile Plain of Sharon runs along the coast, while inland is a range of hills and uplands with relatively barren stony areas to the east. The country stretches southwards through the Negev Desert to Eilat, on the Red Sea. The Dead Sea (the lowest point in the world) sits along the eastern border along the great Syrian-African Rift Valley. Israel's largest freshwater lake, the Kinneret (also known the Sea of Galilee) is an important source of drinking water for the country and a significant religious destination for Jewish and Christian pilgrims.
Owing to its location on the climatic and geographical crossroads, where the northern steppes of Europe meet the Syrian-African Rift Valley, Israel has a surprisingly varied flora and fauna. It has 2,380 species of flora and more than 100 species of mammal. The country is also a crucial stop-over on the great bird migrations as they make their way north and south twice a year. Israel has 66 national parks and 190 nature reserves, under control of the Israel Nature and National Parks Authority.