Blessings and continued growth for Israel in 5784 - editorial

Over the past Jewish year, Israel's population has grown by 2%. May the blessings and growth follow into 5784.

Children prepare for Rosh Hashanah with pomgranates (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Children prepare for Rosh Hashanah with pomgranates

Rosh Hashanah is a time to look back on the year that was and forward to the year ahead.

While 5783 was a year of tremendous turmoil and upheaval and the challenges and disputes that have rocked the nation have not yet been resolved, we have a lot for which to be thankful.

The Central Bureau of Statistics this week released statistics presenting a snapshot of the Jewish state on the eve of 5784.

The growing state of Israel

Israel’s population stands at roughly 9.79 million and is expected to hit 10 million by the end of 2024. The country’s population has grown more than tenfold since its establishment in 1948, when there were just 800,000 residents in the country.

Approximately 7.1 million Jews and two million Arabs live here, making up 73% and 21% of the population, respectively; there are more than half a million Israelis of different religious and ethnic backgrounds. Some 74,000 new immigrants came to Israel in 2022, joining some 3.4 million who have immigrated to Israel since the country’s establishment.

APPLES AND honey: The classic Rosh Hashanah combination. (credit: SUFECO/FLICKR)
APPLES AND honey: The classic Rosh Hashanah combination. (credit: SUFECO/FLICKR)

In all, the population grew by 194,000 people, or over 2%; 172,000 babies were born in the Jewish state over the past year.

Israel’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, $58,270, is the 13th highest in the world; it exported $86.6 billion worth of services and $72.6 billion worth of goods last year, creating a trade surplus of $15.5 billion. The country’s military is considered one of the most capable, on par with the armed forces of some of the greatest powers.

Despite the trials and tribulations of late, fully 90% of Israelis say they are satisfied with their lives. Even as we are tested internally, we project strength throughout the globe and satisfaction with our lot.

Ahead of Rosh Hashanah, President Isaac Herzog sent a special holiday greeting to Jewish communities around the world, highlighting both the challenges and the blessings of the moment.

Challenges over the past year

“It is no secret that this year has challenged us in very real ways,” he said. “For so many, this time of reflection takes on new meanings this year as we have watched Israel struggle with big questions that highlight how big the differences between us can be.”

“But friends, sisters, and brothers, whilst our differences can be painful, they also point to an important comforting truth. We all care deeply about our Jewish people and our beloved Jewish and democratic state of Israel. It is okay to have differences. In fact, having differences and being able to voice them is a sign of strength – strength of our democracy and strength of our people. Our differences are our greatest asset,” the president added.

“So dear friends, I share my hopes that at this time of renewal in the Jewish calendar, each of us makes a special effort to get to know these differences, which are the source of the richness, the resilience of our society, to try to really hear, to listen, and to open our hearts so that we can touch once again what is most true: our belonging to each other, and to the great story we carry together. As we say ‘Kol Yisrael arevim ze baze’ [All the people of Israel are responsible for one another].”

Birkat Hahodesh

The Talmud relates that the 13th-century rabbi Abba bar Aybo, known as Rav, would recite a certain prayer. That prayer now forms the first part of Birkat Hahodesh, the blessing recited on the Shabbat before each new Jewish month. It reads as follows:May it be Your will, the Eternal our God, to grant us long life,a life of peace,a life of good,a life of blessing,a life of sustenance,a life of vigor of the bones,a life marked by reverence of Heaven and dread of sin,a life without shame and embarrassment,a life of riches and honor,a life in which we may be filled with love of Torah and awe of Heaven,a life in which You will fulfill all of our hearts’ desires for good.May 5784 indeed be a year of life and of good, of blessing and of sustenance, and may it be a year marked by unity, harmony, and peace.Shana tova!