Reflections: Achievements and Challenges of the State of Israel

July 18, 2008 at 4:28 pm | Posted in Economics, Peace Process | Leave a comment

Upon its upcoming 60th birthday, Israel will look back on a great history of achievement, far beyond its achievement of mere survival. Looking to its future, Israel’s main focus will continue to be nation-building, the foundation for its citizens’ quality of life in the place they proudly call home.

In the past six decades, Israel has realized levels of advanced technology and statehood that few nations in this world have been able to attain, and Israel has accomplished this even in the face of ongoing conflict and the struggle for survival. From minisatellites high in the sky to smart submarines deep in the seas, from the technology that helps navigate the Internet to the technology that helps doctors navigate inside the human body, Israeli innovation is an essential ingredient. It is in every computer, every cellphone and every other means of telecommunication that our modern world relies on.

It is the quintessential Israeli attitude that has produced this innovation, advancement and social welfare in Israel: Anything and everything is possible if one puts his mind to it. This same Israeli attitude envisioned their cattle leading the world in milk production in a place where other people saw only swamps and wasteland. It envisioned fish farms and sweet watermelon groves using subterranean salt water where others could see only a desert wilderness.

Israel has managed to become the leading country in the world in the number of doctors, engineers and scientists per capita despite its volatile borders and dangerous neighbors. We have to remember that Israel has not seen one decade without violence, and it has paid the price for survival with the lives of too many young heroes. But come what may, Israel remains among the leading nations in average life expectancy.
It is of course life that is the most valued entity, the most important principle for the Israeli people. Yet Israel is in a neighborhood where the sanctity of life is becoming more vulnerable than ever: Growing violence in the Middle East, especially in the past seven years, coupled with the culture of death propagated by terror masterminds in Tehran and Gaza, is endangering life, in every meaning of the word. The past seven years have been an awkward mix of continued success in Israel and a growing doubt of peace in the region’s future.

Many Israelis have lost hope for a peaceful existence, and thousands of them have left the country since the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000. Last year was the first year since the early 1980s that Israel had more people leaving the country than immigrating to it. It is no surprise, then, that Israel’s major challenge in the next decade will be regaining the confidence of the Israeli people in their homeland’s future.

It is true that some challenges require the cooperation of our neighbors and do not depend on our action alone. However, there exist many other internal social issues that must be addressed.

The economic divide is wider in Israel today than it has ever been. On one side, we see 40 families that control a huge chunk of the Israeli economy and the high-tech millionaires living the “American dream” in Israel. On the other side, we see the middle class that has been the foundation for Israel’s democracy, defense and prosperity shrinking every day. If Israel continues to drift in the direction of a society composed of the extremely poor and the extremely wealthy, it will lose those in the middle who are the base of its society.

As we usher in the Jewish year of 5768 and reflect on Israel’s turbulent and unparalleled history, we hold on to the hope that the future holds more promise. We wish that the next seven years will be the seven good years, that they will see a decrease in violence from Israel’s enemies and that they will see the rejuvenation of the strong social base that made Israel an exemplary world leader in innovation.

Article appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times on August 7th, 2007


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