As editor of The Jerusalem Post, I am all too aware of the enormous threats facing the Jewish state and the region. Perhaps the biggest is Iran, with its nuclear weapons program and support of both terrorist regimes and organizations determined to destroy Israel. We have recently experienced the horrors of Islamic State, the terror of Hamas, the brutal civil wars in Syria and Iraq, the persecution and even genocide of Christians and other minorities, and other regional turbulence. Al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups still pose serious dangers, while countries such as Qatar and Turkey are playing a dangerous game.
Israel also has no shortage of sociological problems, including huge socio-economic gaps, the erosion of democracy, as well as tensions between Left and Right, religious and secular, Jews and Arabs, and so on.
Being a journalist who experiences the intensity of the news, I experience the pain and pleasure of life in Israel on a daily basis. One exceptionally powerful consequence of this summer's painful war against Hamas, Operation Protective Edge, was that it brought Israelis and the Jewish people together, infusing us with a new spirit of national unity. I sensed the same spirit last month in the international Shabbat Project, a project initiated by South Africa's Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein in which hundreds of thousands of Jews around the globe joined together in observing the Sabbath.
It is in this spirit of unity that I urge you to consider the following:
After 66 years, Israel today is an island of sanity in a crazy region. It remains a strong democracy based on Jewish values, possessing a mighty military, resilient economy and culture. In a wide range of fields, from medicine through agricultural technology to hi-tech and computers, Israel is a world-leader of which we can all be proud.
There are so many wonderful, positive things happening in Israel today. Let me give you just a few headlines.
1. Aliya is at a five-year high. In the past Jewish year, 5774, almost 25,000 immigrants arrived in Israel, 6,000 of them from France.
2. Israel is almost always at the forefront of helping others in distress.
The government immediately deployed to fight the spread of Ebola in West Africa, setting up mobile field hospitals in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
3. Israel even extends its hand to its enemies. Israeli hospitals welcome outsiders warmly, treating hundreds of Syrians wounded in their civil war, and even the daughter of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.
4. The natural gas discovery is a real game-changer. The huge quantities of natural gas discovered off Israel's coast (some 35 trillion cubic feet currently worth $500 billion) will allow the country not only to be energy-independent, but to become a major exporter of natural gas.
5. Israel is a hi-tech hub and trail-blazer in innovation. Despite the summer war, Israel's sturdy economy has maintained its top A1 credit rating, according to Moody's. It is no surprise that the primary engine driving growth in the Start-Up Nation is the flourishing hi-tech sector which continues to produce an awesome range of products, literally guiding the world with such breakthroughs as the incredible navigation device, Waze.
6. The country is flourishing ecologically. The Jewish National Fund, in partnership with other organizations such as the Or Movement, have fulfilled David Ben-Gurion's vision of making the desert bloom with pioneering drip irrigation technology in the Negev and are now turning their sights on Galilee to make it a dream region for the future.
7. Israel serves as an educational beacon. Philanthropic funds raised by The Jewish Federations of North America, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and other organizations have gone toward improving social services, providing social welfare and building educational institutions that are some of the best in the world. These institutions, in turn, are producing outstanding professionals in all spheres, and providing some of the world's top experts in everything from brain research to helping the disabled.
8. US aid protects us from our enemies. Among other things, the US-funded Iron Dome miraculously saved countless lives during Operation Protective Edge, intercepting more than 700 rockets that could have caused fatal injuries.
Despite the claim on the homepage of the General Assembly (GA), Israel is not in crisis. In fact, Israel is faring fairly well compared to its neighbors and the rest of the world. Surveys show that most Israelis are relatively happy with their lives and the numbers leaving the country are down, despite the exaggerated media reports about young Israelis moving to Berlin, where the popular Israeli Milky pudding is so much cheaper. Despite the constant threats of terror and war, my humble opinion is that Israel is the safest country not only in the region but in the world. Where else do you see young children walking around freely late at night without fear?
Let's not forget what a modern miracle the State of Israel represents, established in the shadow of the Holocaust, and how fortunate we are to have witnessed the rebirth of our ancient nation. Israel is small but strong, with almost nine million citizens, exceptional leaders, a formidable army and a fascinating society. The support it receives from Diaspora Jewry and its many other friends around the world is crucial today, when rising anti-Semitism and the international delegitimization of the Jewish state have caused severe harm to Israel's image.
Let's stand together, and following the Shabbat Project slogan, let's keep it together. If we face the future together, in a united front, we can meet all the challenges ahead and really serve as a light unto the nations.
Welcome to the GA!
The Jerusalem Post