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Amidst the despondency and doldrums engulfing us, we ought to ask ourselves if we haven't perhaps lost our perspective. We started out our national career - if I am not mistaken - as a tiny, miserable, threatened, isolated, destitute and sparsely populated country. Once, when a ship with flour was delayed in arriving, we were almost left without bread. Inflation wreaked havoc with the economy. Sallah Shabati was living in a tent. Don't even ask.
Some might call it nostalgia. That there is no point in looking back 60 years in retrospect. Okay. So let's look just 40 years back. When the Six Day War had just ended, after our brilliant victory, the Arab leaders gathered in Khartoum and published their three noes: no to negotiations with Israel, no to recognition of Israel, no to peace with Israel. And that was when we were willing to return all the occupied territories in return for peace. "I'm waiting for a phone call," Dayan said; but no one called.
Last week, the heads of the Arab countries gathered in Riyadh and sent us a message: Yes to negotiations with Israel, yes to recognition of Israel, yes to peace with Israel. True, they posed conditions that we cannot accept. Every negotiation starts with conditions that neither side can accept. But those unable to see the large - no, huge - difference between Khartoum and Riyadh do not understand the difference between the world then and today.
When the Czech rifle was the IDF's chief weapon, did anyone in Israel ever think, envision, dream that Israel would export military technology, not to Zimbabwe, but to the United States? When oranges were Israel's chief export, could anyone have foreseen that Israel would become a hi-tech superpower? When the state's first finance minister, Eliezer Kaplan, begged American Jews to send a few million dollars because the national coffers were empty, did we dare hope that one day our exports would exceed our imports and that foreign companies would invest in Israel to the tune of $24 billion a year? That inflation would drop to zero? Or that Israeli companies would open farms in Egypt and factories in Jordan? Who even imagined peace with Egypt or Jordan?
Yes, yes, I know. I know all the sarcastic reactions to my outpouring of Zionism. But just the same, one has to admit that despite the poverty at the bottom and the corruption at the top, despite the mistakes and failures in the Second Lebanon War, and despite the dangers posed to us from Iran, we perhaps should admit that life in Israel has never been better, that the vast majority of the population eats better, dresses better, lives better, travels farther, has more leisure time and feels better than in the past.
I am aware that an article of this kind is more suited to Independence Day than to Pessah. But I don't have the patience to wait until then because I am sick and tired of hearing the whining and wailing of the naysayers, the bitterness of the satiated citizenry, the self-hatred of the cynical media and the defeatist contempt for all that is good and beautiful in our lives. It is sad that it takes courage today to write about all that is good and beautiful in our lives.
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