A Fresh Perspective: Miracle country

EVERY COUNTRY has shortcomings, but Israel’s accomplishments in the past 68 years are nothing short of a miracle.

Flag of Israel (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Flag of Israel
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
This past week, a group of young right-wing activists, including myself, met for a discussion with former MK Moshe Feiglin, in which he spoke about his goals when creating his new political party, Zehut.
Feiglin described the reality the way he saw it, as he often does, by describing the “horrible” state of affairs and claiming that the State of Israel was in very bad shape. He, of course, then promised that he was the only person who could change things.
“Is this the State of Israel that we dreamed of for 2,000 years?” he said.
In the time leading up to Independence Day, I could not help but cringe when hearing such a description of reality.
I also could not help but answer with a resounding yes! This is indeed the state we dreamed of for 2,000 years, for in the past 68, Israel has grown into nothing less than a miracle.
ISRAEL’S POPULATION grew from a mere 800,000 in 1948 to an impressive eight million by 2013. This growth was caused by two things that were, by themselves, miraculous.
For a western country, Israel has a high birthrate, with 3.04 per woman in 2012, compared to 1.88 in America, 2.0 in France and 1.38 in Germany.
Since birthrates are usually a reflection of hope for the future, the fact that people living in war-torn Israel are still investing in birth is great testament that a nation whose national anthem is called “The Hope” is still living by this important principle.
The second factor leading to this population growth was Israel’s impressive ability to integrate hundreds of thousands of Jews who immigrated from all around the world.
From Australia to North America, through Brazil, Morocco, Europe, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Asia, Israel has successfully been fulfilling the biblical prophecy of the ingathering of the exiles: “The Lord, your God, will bring back your exiles, and He will have mercy upon you. He will once again gather you from all the nations, where the Lord, your God, had dispersed you.”
From its very beginning, this young and small nation with a fragile economy has been able to bring together people from very different backgrounds into one nation and an impressive, thriving democracy.
Israel is also the only nation in history that has been able to revive a dead language. It is hard to believe that at the beginning of the previous century, Hebrew was used as a language only for prayer and religious study. Today, it is thriving. People speak in Hebrew, sing in Hebrew, joke in Hebrew and even curse in Hebrew. Hebrew is once again a living language.
From 1950 to 2007, the per-capita GDP in Israel grew six-fold. The country’s now-thriving economy is at the center of international innovation, which abounds in Israel not only in hitech, the heart of the so-called start-up nation, but also in academia and defense industries.
As for international relations, things have never been better. Just recently, Israel opened an office at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels. It joined the OECD a few years ago. While relations with the European Union are at times tense, bilateral relations between Israel and European states remain strong: Germany, France, England and the Czech Republic are all led by people who proudly call themselves friends of Israel. Australia and Canada have constantly deepened their ties with Israel, and even a very hostile Obama administration has not been able to hurt the strong bond between the Israeli people and the American people.
ISRAEL IS far from perfect. Its shortcomings span all its sectors. However, one must realize that this is true of every single nation in this world.
There are no nations that are perfect, no states without shortcomings. It is easy for a politician like Feiglin to distort reality by focusing only there and ignoring the incredible advancements of our society. It is also easy for politicians who have never been in a position of power – where they need to compromise on their principles, the way every leader rightfully needs to do in a democracy – to criticize ruling politicians for “not going the whole way.”
One can easily list the problems with our lack of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, ignoring the silent steps undertaken in order to protect the rights of the Jews living in these areas. One can easily list the problems we have on the Temple Mount, where Jews are robbed of their right to the free practice of religion when they are not allowed to pray.
Yes, there are still many shortcomings.
However, when we come to understand that perfection exists only in utopian fantasies, we quickly realize that when looking at the accomplishments of a government or state, we must judge not the way things are, but the trends that are present. Anyone claiming that Israel’s history has been anything but blessed with positive trends is living in a parallel reality.
There is still a long way to go, but Israel is on the right path.
A person can start working with the system to try and influence change, incremental as it might be, instead of having a “my way or the highway” approach like Feiglin has had ever since entering politics, where he announced he was running for prime minister before he even entered the Knesset as a regular parliamentarian.
Yes, compromise is less appealing, but it is the way things get done. This is how we see slow change happening. A lack of compromise means no change will happen.
Feiglin’s discourse is not very different from the discourse of the Left. People there are also imbued with utopian dreams instead of realistic policies. They like to blame Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for everything bad in this world, as if he were responsible even for the weather. Yet a worse aspect of this discourse is that it shows a great deal of ungratefulness for what we have accomplished as a nation in such a short time.
ONE WEEK ago, we celebrated Holocaust Remembrance Day. This week, we marked Remembrance Day, in which we remembered and thanked the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for us to achieve these great accomplishments, and celebrated Independence Day. The contrast between the two days shows how far our nation has moved forward in only a few decades.
By ignoring our accomplishments, by always asking for more without recognizing what we already have, people are showing a great deal of ungratefulness to all those who sacrificed so much to bring us to where we are today.
Asking for us to keep moving forward is a great thing. Ignoring our accomplishments turns us into incredibly ungrateful beings. ■
The writer is an attorney and a former legislative adviser to the Knesset’s coalition chairman. He previously served in a legal capacity at the Foreign Ministry. He is a graduate of McGill University Law School and Hebrew University’s master’s program in public policy.