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Israel scored surprisingly – perhaps – high in the newly published Gallup poll ranking countries for their citizens’ happiness levels. Israel came in tied for eighth along with Canada, Australia, and Switzerland. Only the four Scandinavian countries – Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden – along with the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and New Zealand came in higher.
Clearly, being a democracy is necessary for scoring in this top eleven. Being among the world’s richest countries helps, but is not required; Israel and New Zealand are not among them, Costa Rica considerably less so.
But, clearly, what dramatically differentiates Israel from all the other ten, makes it an anomaly among them, is its security situation. Over the past decade alone, no other democracy has endured anything approaching the combination of the Second Intifada, the Second Lebanon War, rockets from Gaza, the Gaza War, and constant threats and promises of Israel’s annihilation from Tehran. Yet, according to the poll, Israel is not only as happy as Canada, Australia, and Switzerland, but outpaces democracies like the United States, Britain, France, and many others.
Meanwhile – in honor of Tu B’Av, a revived, ancient Jewish holiday comparable to Valentine’s Day – last week Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics published data on marriage and children that again paint Israel as rather an anomaly. While 12 percent of its Jewish population see two as the optimal number of children in a family, and less than 1 percent would rather have only one, 40 percent would prefer three children, and 39 percent even higher numbers.
In other words, if Israel stands out negatively among democracies for its security situation, it stands out positively in its attitude toward procreation. And it is not only a matter of attitude; the current Israeli birth rate for secular Jewish women, 2.6, is by far the highest in the Western world, and the rate among Orthodox Jewish women in Israel is considerably higher.
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