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April 25, 2023 10:34 am

Israel at 75 Is Truly Worth Celebrating

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avatar by Mitchell Bard


IDF soldiers injured in a car-ramming attack are sworn in on the same day at the Western Wall, February 6, 2020. Photo: Twitter screenshot.

Sadly, the political turmoil of recent weeks has dampened enthusiasm for commemorating Israel’s 75th anniversary. Nevertheless, let’s take time out from the divisive discourse, and unite to acknowledge the Jewish State’s remarkable accomplishments.

First, we should remember that the establishment of Israel was no sure thing, even after the UN partition resolution of 1947. By then, the Jewish community in Israel had the infrastructure of a state, but had to overcome political and military obstacles. If not for the support of President Harry Truman, Israel might not exist, or at least it might have taken much longer to be declared. And Truman had to overrule his most trusted advisors who opposed the creation of Israel.

American officials also did not believe Israel could defeat the Arab armies, and convinced Truman to impose an arms embargo, making Israel’s victory even more difficult.

But Israel did prevail against the odds, as it did in the subsequent six wars. In the process, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) became one of the world’s most powerful and respected militaries, and Jerusalem was reunified.

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Today, a debate rages over the fate of Israel’s democracy, but initially, there was no assurance the Jewish state would be democratic. The US critics initially feared Israel would be allied with the Soviets, and might tilt toward communism. Instead, the country developed into one of the world’s most robust democracies, ranking #23 out of 167 countries on the Democracy Index from the Economist Intelligence Unit, just behind France and Great Britain, and ahead of the United States.

The country did adopt a more socialist approach to governance, but this also yielded benefits in terms of working conditions, health care, and the development of cooperative agriculture. The economy grew rapidly in its early years, but needed to be sustainable. After inflation exceeded 400%, the US shepherded Israel toward a more capitalistic approach that helped stimulate the innovations that turned the country into the “Start-up Nation.”

Israel was also the first country that the United States signed a Free Trade Agreement with, and since then, US-Israel trade has grown six-fold. In addition, most US government agencies have agreements for cooperation with Israel.

The list of innovations grows daily, from advanced microchips and global positioning systems, to drip irrigation and messaging systems — from life-saving medical technology and medications (Teva is the world’s top generics manufacturer) to advanced military equipment such as the Iron Dome. Israel is a leader in desalinization technology, and has become a leading natural gas producer. Israel also belongs to the elite club of nations that have launched a satellite into space, sent a spacecraft to orbit the moon, and developed nuclear weapons (which it does not acknowledge). Bloomberg ranked Israel as the 7th most innovative country in the world in 2021.

Israel has proven to be a haven for Jews from around the world. The Law of Return gave Jews the right to emigrate to Israel and gain Israeli citizenship. Some, like the Jews of Ethiopia and the Muslim countries, fled persecution, while others came as pioneers to build a nation. Still more wanted to live in the biblical homeland. Less than 900,000 people lived in the nascent state. Today, the population is approaching 10 million. The Jewish population has grown 10-fold from 700,000 to more than seven million. Israel is the only Jewish-majority state in the world, and home to nearly half of all Jews. Israel is also the only Middle Eastern country where the Christian population is growing.

Unlike the rest of Israel’s Middle Eastern neighbors, Israeli law affords full rights to its LGBT citizens, including employment discrimination laws. Tel Aviv has been rated the most gay-friendly city in the world.

And each immigrant population contributed to Israeli society, bringing food, music, and enthusiasm. They also came speaking multiple languages, but Hebrew is the lingua franca. This is remarkable, given that the language was not part of the vernacular until it was revived by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda and recognized as the official language of the Jews of Mandatory Palestine in 1922.

Speaking of cuisine, Israel has the third most vegans in the world. Approximately 5% of Israelis are vegans. In 2017, Israel was ranked as having the world’s healthiest diet and, in 2020, the 10th healthiest country. During the Covid outbreak, Israel was ranked as one of the safest countries in the world.

Israelis have also beautified an already magnificent part of the world. Israel is one of, if not the only, country that ended the 20th century with more trees than it had at the start. It has created sensational national parks and carefully cultivated and protected the landmarks of history, whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or another faith or culture.

Speaking of culture, how about the flourishing of Hebrew literature, the innovative dance companies like Batsheva, the world-class Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, the film industry that has exported actors like Gal Gadot and shows like “Shtisel” and “Fauda,” and the music of singers like Ofra Haza, Arik Einstein, and Naomi Shemer? Israel has the most museums per capita than any other country. It is also home to the world’s only theater company composed entirely of deaf and blind actors. Thirteen Israelis have won Nobel Prizes, including Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, and Shimon Peres, for their efforts to bring about peace with the Palestinians.

Despite its size, Israel has also become a basketball powerhouse, with Maccabi Tel Aviv winning the Euroleague championship six times. It has now won 10 medals in the Summer Olympics.

Israel was the first nation in the world to adopt the Kimberly process, an international standard that certifies diamonds as “conflict free.”

Much of the Arab/Islamic world still refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist, but it was not so long ago that few people imagined Israel could ever achieve peace with Egypt, yet it did. Jordan followed. And now, in just the last three years, Israel has developed flourishing ties with Bahrain, the UAE, and Morocco. Hope remains high that the Abraham Accords can be expanded, even as Palestinian rejectionism makes a resolution to their conflict with Israel remote.

These achievements have all occurred despite a boycott imposed by the Arab League before Israel existed, and the more recent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Israel has had among the highest GDP growth rates within the developed world, and was ranked as the 4th most successful economy among developed countries for 2022 by The Economist.

This tiny speck of land, for better and often worse, attracts global attention. Many of its leaders have been better known worldwide than their counterparts in larger countries. Israel was the fourth country in the world to elect a female prime minister — Golda Meir.

Despite all its tribulations, the UN ranked Israel #4 on the world happiness index in 2023.

This is a mere fraction of the nation’s accomplishments. What Israel at 75 represents most of all is the triumph of Zionism.

Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on US-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including “The Arab Lobby,” “Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews” and “After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.”

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