On Thursday, April 23, 2015, the Jewish state celebrated its 67th birthday – corresponding to the 5th of Iyar on the Hebrew calendar. What makes this unique in the annals of history is that Jews in the 20th century reestablished Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel after 2082 years of the land having been occupied and the Jewish people having been oppressed, exiled, persecuted – including, most notably, the Spanish Inquisition, pogroms, and the Holocaust. The last Jewish sovereign entity was the Hashmonean dynasty, which lasted 47 years, from 110BCE to 63BCE. The Romans colonized and ruled the land followed by a host of others.
Much like the Hashmoneans that fought the Seleucid Greeks for independence, modern Israel was born in a climate of war. The nascent Jewish state, which declared its independence on May 14, 1948, was forced to defend itself the very next day against a multi-pronged attack from the well supplied Arab armies of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, in addition to Palestinian-Arab irregulars. The Jews triumphed despite a U.S. imposed arms embargo which forced Israel to acquire arms clandestinely.
The Palestinian-Jews had accepted the UN November 29, 1947 Partition Plan, however, the Palestinian-Arabs opted to reject the UN plan, which would have established a state for both peoples.
The Silver Platter, a poignant and revered poem written by Israel’s most famous poet laureate, Nathan Alterman, commemorates the sacrifice of Israel’s youth with these words: “…full of endless fatigue and unrested, yet the dew of their youth is still seen on their head. Thus they stand at attention, giving no sign of life or death. Then a nation in tears and amazement will ask: Who are you? And they will answer quietly, ‘We are the silver platter on which the Jewish state was given.’ Thus they will say and fall back in shadows, and the rest will be told in the chronicles of Israel.”
Israel’s 1948 War of Independence exacted an awesome price on the Jewish nation which followed very shortly after the Holocaust in which six million Jews were murdered by Nazi German war machine and other haters. Over 6000 Israelis died in the war and 15,000 were wounded. The dead amounted to 1% of the state’s population. Yet notwithstanding the human and resource devastation the war caused, Israel absorbed over a million Jewish refugees from the Arab states and Holocaust survivors from Europe.
Every Israeli Independence Day distinguished Israelis who made breakthroughs in their field of endeavor light a torch at the national ceremony on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem, symbolizing the beginning of Independence Day festivities. Among this year’s honored individuals are Dr. Danny Gold, inventor and developer of the Iron Dome missile defense system; Ehud Shabtai, founder and developer of the Waze navigation application – used by millions of drivers in 120 countries; Professor Marta Weinstock-Rosin, developer of drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases; Gavriel Iddan, an engineer who developed the Pill Cam – a miniaturized ingestible and disposable camera that gives doctors a view of the colon; Rafi Mehudar, developer of drip irrigation – an agricultural breakthrough in Israel and abroad; Lucy Aharish, Arab-Muslim journalist who works to advance social pluralism and co-existence; and, Gal Lusky, founder and CEO of Israeli Flying Aid, providing humanitarian assistance to disaster-stricken areas around the world.
A camera that can detect cancerous growth, drip irrigation that can make deserts bloom, a navigation system that saves you time and fuel in getting to your destination, as well as Israelis who contribute to various eye cures, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson diseases. Then ponder the value of a missile defense system that can protect people’s lives against incoming missiles and Israelis who are the first to arrive on the scene providing critical medical aid to those in need – including Haiti, Mexico, Turkey, the Philippines and often countries with whom they do not have political ties.
It is sad to note that Arabs and the Muslim world with its vast resources have done little if anything to help others in need, and Israel’s Arab neighbors with all that wealth endure failing economies and societies in turmoil.
In relative short order, the Jewish state developed a thriving modern economy able to make these medical, technological contributions despite a lack of natural resources and the need to allocate major resources for security and fighting wars against terrorist organizations such as Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Last year, for example, Israel fought a reluctant war in Gaza (Protective Edge), with barely a major disruption to its economy. The Wharton School (Univ. of Pennsylvania) April 16, 2015 report observed, “If a Martian economist were to land in Tel Aviv tomorrow, and were presented with Israel’s macroeconomic data for the past several years, the alien visitor would be hard pressed to identify any signs of major disruption during 2014.”
According to the Heritage Foundation Israel’s GDP stood at $273.7 billion in 2014-2015, its annual growth was 3.3%, and its 5-year compounded growth was $3.6%. Israel’s per capita income was $34,770, exceeding all other regional states except Qatar and Kuwait (with huge oil revenues and small populations); comparable to Belgium and France’s PCI, and doing better than Spain and Italy. Israel’s unemployment was listed as 6.7% (actually 5.3% according to The Economist) and inflation was at 1.5%. Considering Israel’s influx of immigrants and periodic wars, these stats are impressive.
A comparison between Israel vintage 1948 and today is startling. Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics shows that in 1948, Israel’s population was 806,000. On the eve of the 2015 Independence Day it stood at 8,345,000. Jews accounted for 6, 251,000, and 364,000 residents were listed without a religion, together these two categories account for 79.3% of the population. Arab-Israelis account for 20.7% of the population. Israel’s population grew by 2% (162,000) in the past year. In 1948 only 35% of the population was native born (sabras) whereas in 2014 they accounted for 75%. In 1948, only one Israeli city, Tel Aviv, exceeded 100,000 residents. Today, there are 14 cities with populations over 100,000. Jerusalem is the largest with over 800,000, Tel Aviv close to 500,000 and its satellite cities of Rishon Le’zion and Petach Tikva exceed 200,000, as does Haifa.
A visitor absent from the Jewish state for even one year would find major infrastructure changes. Superhighways connect all parts of Israel, as does the new rail system. Jerusalem has its own light rail crisscrossing the city. High tech modern towers dot Israel’s major cities and suburbs while Microsoft, Dell, Google, and others have their main research and development centers in Israel.
Those who seek to destroy the Jewish state are filled with envy at the success of the Zionist enterprise. An industry of lies has developed to malign Israel. It is an outgrowth of the Arab League boycott of Israel. Israel’s enemies however, have failed to defeat it in wars, nor has Palestinian terrorism brought down the state. Omar Barghouti and his BDS initiative, which spawned anti-Israel “apartheid campaigns” on U.S. campuses, and law-fare at UN agencies, are new weapons to destroy the Jewish state. Alas, the Jewish state is stronger than ever, its people are proud of its accomplishments and its armed forces powerful enough to deter and defeat its enemies. At its 67th birthday, Israel still faces implacable enemies, but its society, military, and economy are flourishing and contributing to a better world.
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