The good side of 2018

Israel is a wonderful country, and we’ve had a great year, even with the occasional bump along the way.

By
December 30, 2018 21:03
3 minute read.
People celebrate the winning of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 by Israel's Netta Barzilai.

People celebrate the winning of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 by Israel's Netta Barzilai with her song "Toy" , Rabin square in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 13, 2018.. (photo credit: REUTERS/CORINNA KERN)

 
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Newspapers tend to be in the business of bad news far more than good news. “If it bleeds, it leads” is a well-known adage. The downside is we often forget how good things are. Between rockets from Gaza, terrorist attacks, corruption, murder and whatever else makes headlines most days, there are plenty of great events happening in Israel and the world each day. Here is some news from 2018 to remind us all to see the glass as half-full, as the secular year comes to a close.

Netta Barzilai became an international name and a national hero, after she and her chicken sounds brought Israel to its fourth Eurovision victory, the first in 20 years, bringing Israelis to the streets to celebrate and sing “I’m Not Your Toy.”

Netta was part of another major good news story in 2018: the first-ever official visit to Israel by a member of the British royal family, Prince William. This year, a prince and Superman – OK, actor Dean Cain, who played Superman on TV – visited Israel.

Beyond visiting royalty, this was a banner year for Israel’s foreign relations. Our ties expanded throughout the Middle East, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visiting Oman and other ministers jetsetting around the Persian Gulf. By Netanyahu’s count, 300 senior foreign dignitaries – presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers, senators and leading parliamentarians – visited Israel this year.

Israeli disaster-relief experts helped people around the world. Israelis provided aid in California, Puerto Rico and Guatemala, where Sara Netanyahu was personally invited by the president’s wife to dedicate the efforts. In Thailand, emergency mobile communication technology developed by Israeli company Maxtech Networks played a key role in rescuing the youth soccer team trapped in a flooded cave, whose survival and rescue captured the world’s attention.

The US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved its embassy. We didn’t need them to tell us. It’s our eternal capital and has been that way for millennia, but it’s nice to get recognition. And US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley championed Israel repeatedly in that den of wolves.

The Mossad pulled off another amazing feat, whisking away half a ton of documents from Iran’s nuclear archives. Capt. Or Na’aman of the IAF saved countless Israeli lives – twice! First she was in charge of the interception of a Syrian drone over Lake Kinneret, and two weeks later she commanded the Patriot missile battery that shot down a Syrian fighter jet over the Golan Heights. Israel also used its David’s Sling missile interceptor system for the first time against missiles from Syria. David’s Sling is meant to counter medium- to long-range rockets and tactical ballistic missiles. Speaking of the Air Force, they swore in their first Ethiopian pilot this month. From the air to the ground, and below it, the IDF detected and blew up several tunnels from Lebanon into Israel, dug by Hezbollah terrorists.


Israel’s economy continued to flourish in several areas. The Start-Up Nation saw several “exits,” including SodaStream, bought by PepsiCo for $3.2 billion. Israel’s gas boom has the potential to provide $26 billion of natural gas to our neighbors. And in a boon to the environment, 60% of Israel’s electricity production moved from coal to natural gas. Tourism is way up, beating last year’s record of 3.6 million visitors by mid-November.

In sports, Israeli judoka Sagi Muki won the Gold Medal at the Judo Grand Competition in Abu Dhabi, and Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev openly wept while the Israeli national anthem “Hatikva” was played. The Giro d’Italia sent 75 riders from 22 teams through Jerusalem to the finish line in Eilat. It was the first time the major bicycle race began outside of Europe.

Aliza Bloch won the mayorship in Beit Shemesh, bringing much-needed hope to the city that had been mired in corruption and conflict. The number of female mayors across Israel nearly doubled from seven to 13 – though there’s plenty of room to improve with 257 local councils in Israel – and the number of female members of Knesset reached a record high of 35.
Nearly 30,000 people made aliyah, immigrating to Israel this year. Welcome!

Israel is a wonderful country, and we’ve had a great year, even with the occasional bump along the way.

There’s plenty to celebrate this New Year’s Eve. Have a happy 2019!

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