Today’s Israel is much different from the Israel of my youth. It is richer, stronger, and much more diverse. I grew up in a seemingly egalitarian Israel, where our economy rested on socialist principles. The Kibbutz (collective farm community) was the symbol of our society’s success well into 1970’s and beyond, and it produced most of our military and political leadership. Capitalism was almost a dirty word, yet western culture permeated much of our urban life in the early decades of the state.
Growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust made Israel determined to overcome the odds against it. In its first war for survival, the 1948 War of Independence, Israel prevailed over the combined Arab armies of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria, who openly declared to the world their world intention to destroy us. George Marshall, President Harry Truman’s Secretary of State, didn’t think the nascent Jewish state could survive. He cautioned Truman against recognizing the Jewish State.
The early years were bleak. Between 1949 (immediately after the War of Independence) and 1951, the country absorbed more people than it previously had on May 14, 1948, when Ben Gurion (Israel’s founding father and first Prime Minister) declared the independence of the Jewish state. The absorption of over a million Jews, Holocaust survivors and Middle Eastern Jews expelled from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, etc. necessitated an austerity program. This era in the early 1950’s was called Tzena. Families received coupons for basic foods such as milk, eggs, potatoes, etc. Meat was scarce and expensive. Private cars were rare, and such essentials taken for granted today, including refrigerators (we used ice boxes), telephones, and television sets were the property of few. Those individuals who owned a TV could only receive broadcasts from the Arab states and Europe. Israel launched its TV broadcasting in May 1968.
Another dramatic rise in Israel’s Jewish population came in the early 1990’s with the influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. Almost 1.5 million arrived and impacted the demographic balance between Israelis and the Palestinians. Yasser Arafat’s threat that “Palestinian-Arab wombs would bury Israel” didn’t materialize. Israel’s population grew from around 806,000 in 1948, to about 9,727,000 in 2023, with the Jewish population numbering 7,145,000 (figures given by Times of Israel). Today, Jewish birthrates in Israel are in parity with the Palestinians. Most remarkable has been the nation’s many decades of successful integration of people of widely diverse backgrounds.
Not long ago, Israel was energy dependent, and water starved. But with freedom of thought and creativity encouraged, the discovery of significant gas deposits off Israel’s shores are making the country a potential energy exporter. It’s desalination plants, a model for the world, makes Israel water self-sufficient. Still, lacking natural resources, Israel’s brain power and ingenuity have made it a world leader in the crucial areas of medicine, water technology, desert agriculture, environmental protection, recycling as much as 90 percent of its wastewater. Israel has been sharing its important advances and conservation practices with nations rich and poor throughout the world, enhancing our parched planet. The country has become known globally as the Startup Nation, being the next country after the US in companies represented on the USA Stock Exchange.
For decades, the Arab League economic boycott of Israel aimed at stifling its growth, causing its people to abandon the country, didn’t succeed. The privatization policies of Benjamin Netanyahu in the 21st century propelled Israel into becoming a major economic success story. It resulted in the Arab boycott disappearing, and its growing acceptance among its hitherto enemies in the Arab world. This ultimately translated into the Abraham Accords of September 2020, when Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates signed a peace treaty with Israel, to which Morocco, and Sudan (still pending) also joined. Egypt and Jordan, acknowledging Israel’s as a formidable neighbor, signed peace treaties with Israel in 1979 and 1994 respectively.
Domestically, Israel has some challenges as do all nations. Constitutional issues that in Israel that are referred to as Judicial Reform has sharpened some divisions in the country between left and right, secular, and religious Israelis. Yet, democracy and free speech have been on full display.
In the foreseeable future Israel is facing a gathering storm. The Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies are threatening to attack Israeli population centers from multiple fronts. Saudi Arabia, until recently a major prospect to be joining the USA backed Abraham Accords, has instead turned, and reached a rapprochement with Iran via Chinese mediation. This stunning event follows repeated public criticism of the Saudis by President Biden over the Khashoggi killing. Riyadh reacted to Biden’s hostility and softening of American support. The growing influence of China and Russia in the Middle East does not bode well for Israel or the USA. Furthermore, Israel, unlike any other country, faces the existential threat of annihilation. As soon to be a nuclear Iran, who openly proclaims to the world its intention to destroy Israel, remains a challenge. The sophisticated Israeli military is, however, addressing these challenges. Israel has repeatedly agreed to the existence of a Palestinian state but only if Palestinians agree to live permanently at peace next to Israel and not replace it.
Israelis, despite the arguments and division, recognize the incredible achievements of the Jewish state. Israel is among the freest countries in the world, where religious freedom, free speech (as witnessed by the massive recent protests) human and civil rights are protected. Israel is the only place in the Middle East with a growing Christian population, expanding by roughly 2% annually. Israel is the only place in the Middle East where members of the LGBTQ community can live without fear of oppression. Israel is a world leader in high-tech and research and development, spending nearly 5% of GDP on innovation. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has been called the most moral army in the Middle East, if not throughout the world. While Palestinian propaganda seeks to portray Israel as being colonialist, Israel represents more than anything the return of an indigenous people to their own land!
Israel has come a long way from the early days. Its GDP per capita income rose from around $7,000 in 1948 to $52,170.7 (2021). Seventy-five years into Israel’s existence, the Jewish state is not merely surviving, it is thriving. Although I miss the intimacy that typified Israeli society of my youth, Israel today is a more mature, highly developed nation. There are still unsolved domestic and external problems including the cost of living and achieving the yearned for peace with all its neighbors. However, success came at a price in blood: 24,213 Israelis who died in defense of the Jewish state, 4,255 victims of terror.
As Israel mourned its dead, to be followed by Independence Day celebrations, it is fitting to recall Israel’s beloved poet, Nathan Alterman’s famous poem: “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.”
So, Happy 75th Birthday Israel!
J.J. Sefton says
Looks like the Soros/Davos/DC Axis is hell bent on a color revolution in Israel as well. And that would be disastrous.
Duval Gohari says
Both my parents are Jewish and we are not indigenous to the Middle East. My family has been in France for generations. We speak French, eat French cuisine, celebrate France’s holidays. My ethnicity is French. My religion is Judaism. Jewish people that have lived in Europe for many, many generations are not indigenous to the Middle East.
Yes, sir. That’s 100% accurate. The Jews of Europe are not indigenous to the Middle East. They are indigenous to Europe. Jews fled Europe due to rampant discrimination and violence against them: not because of some longing for their “homeland.”
Astounding how much you know about me. I made Aliya because I wanted to.
Aliya comes when the Divine says so; not man. The Orthodox considered it heretical and sacrilegious, arguing that a return to Eretz Israel could only be hastened by divine rather than human will
Koos ema shelcha and thanks, Rabbi.
Swearing in Hebrew just shows how ignorant you are. When one has to swear during a discussion they just lost.
You’re Welcome. I’m always here to educate the uneducated.
France is emptying of Jews, some to Israel, some to Montreal, some to Florida. What remains are people who have major business/professional interests and the elderly– the latter being a very large contingent, BTW.
I have a dear friend who is also Jewish and her parents were French Jews – born and raised in France. They too immigrated to Canada because of the rampant discrimination and raised their kids here. Her 3 sons were raised in the Jewish faith, did their bar mitzvah and visited Israel. My friend has never been to Israel but it’s on her “bucket list” (it’s on mine as well!), so we might end up going together on a tour.
Philip Reinstein says
What do you mean your religion is Judaism? I would venture to say you do not eat Kosher or observe the Sabbath laws. Correct me if I am wrong.
If your family does not read the Bible, attend synagogue services, circumcise its male children, or read the Hagaddah on Passover, concluding with the line, Next Year in Jerusalem. then you are right. You are not a Jew nor are you indigenous to Israel.
Just curious though. How do you find yourself reading this article? There is nothing of interest to you here.
Duval Gohari says
How dare you question my religion. You must be a secular Jew aka an atheist. I am proud of my French heritage. I don’t deny my European roots as someone like do. You want to live in fantasy land and pretend your “indigenous to Israel? Knock yourself out.
Reading the Bible, attending synagogue, etc, doesn’t make you indigenous to Israel.
My family has been in France for many generations. My ethnicity is French. My religion is Judaism. .
“How do you find yourself reading this article? There is nothing of interest to you here.”
What a pompous a** you are.
What are you confused about? He’s not under the delusion he’s indigenous to the Middle East. He’s from France.
You’re not indigenous to the Middle East or Levant either.
Robert of Prague says
Our mostly gojim family had many Jewish friends before WWII, after, that is, the few that survived the Holocaust. In EU, they’re called Ashkenazi, methinks.
Robert of Prague says
Mazel tov, Israel, happy 75th b’day.
Thanks, Joseph, for honestly admitting the myopic infatuation with & schlocky bobkes of socialism in the kibbutzim. Our mostly gojim family celebrated the yuge victory of the Six-day War – you didn’t mention – but rolled our eyes re: the repressive kibbutz shtick. Didn’t the Ashkenazi learn anything from Stalin bolshevik henchmen & Adolf brown-shirts? My maternal granny – nee Schneider, or Šnajdr in CZ, spoke Czech, Wiener German & Yiddish. Called me ‘my little meshugge.’ She didn’t end up in Auschwitz because as a child she became catholic.
Further, do you have a light case of TDS? The Abraham Accords have Trump written all over!
And, what’s up with ‘…enhancing our parched planet…?’ Are you drinking the ‘prog’ Cool-aid of AGW? 2/3 of Earth are oceans! The W-Rockies had 900 inches of snow this season – a record of all time. Spring was late but is lush & blooms galore.
Over all, not a bad spiel. Shalom.
Robert of Prague
“Rather Free in Want than Rich in Servitude”
angelo barbato says
Happy birthday Israel!