Israel: The Next Sixty Years

July 18, 2008 at 4:37 pm | Posted in Economics, Peace Process | Leave a comment

It took two thousand years to dream of it, sixty years to plan it, and sixty more to bring it to life. The modern state of Israel will celebrate its sixtieth anniversary in 2008 with great pride in its achievements and with the knowledge that its story, like that of any other democratic society, remains unfinished. We Israelis live in a region filled with great instability and anxiety, but we will never give up our hope for peace.

Israel is a small place, no bigger than any state in the American South. Yet its people represent a brave and ancient nation with a dynamic soul. Today Israel ranks among the world’s 25 most advanced and freest nations. In 1995 it was the first country to sign a free trade agreement with both the United States and Europe. Israel is the only non-European Union state to be included in the EU science program, and was recently announced as a candidate for the prestigious Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Israelis believe that anything can be possible. This was our belief from the moment our first immigrants entered the Promised Land in the late nineteenth century, and it continues to drive us today. The strongest internal calling of contemporary Israelis echoes the desire of early Zionist thinker Achad Ha’am (1856-1927): to fulfill Israel’s destiny as ‘a light unto the nations.’ Achad Ha’am’s essential idea to create an intellectual hub in the Promised Land still motivates the Israeli spirit of innovation and generosity.

This is the attitude behind the Israel of scientific achievement, the powerhouse of innovation that created the smallest satellites in the sky, the smallest pill cameras, and technologies that are incorporated into every cell phone and personal computer. Israel leads the world in the number of patents registered and high-tech firms per capita.

Israelis do not dwell on their security problems. Since the early 1950s they have journeyed throughout the developing world to share their technological expertise. When MASHAV aid recipients from the Amazon to Southeast Asia refer to Israel as a superpower, it has nothing to do with its military power. To them Israel is a superpower because it sends them engineers to help them acquire drinking water, or doctors to help them treat diseases.

In spite of these achievements, the Israelis have yet to attain what will be their greatest accomplishment. They long for the day when they will live peacefully and securely along side a stable, prosperous Palestinian state. Peace is the desire of the Israelis, and it is our wish for all of our children over the next sixty years: Palestinians and Israelis; Arabs and Jews alike.

The Israeli – Palestinian conflict is one of many conflicts in the area stretching from the Persian Gulf to Northern Africa. There are those who are determined turn the Middle East into the center of a global clash of civilizations. Israel, however, will use its next sixty years as it used its first sixty, working to achieve the dream of peace and stability. Our history gives us hope as it teaches us that people of good faith do have the power to implement their dreams. Our peaceful wishes and positive thinking might make us seem weak to tyrants, but Israel will prove that the victory of peace over hate is inevitable.

Article appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on May 8th, 2008; in the Birmingham News on May 18th, 2008; in the Asheville Citizen Times on May 18th, 2008; and in Israel 21C on May 19th, 2008

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