My Word: Larger than life

Expect the unexpected. That’s never bad advice.

Protestors shout slogans as they demonstrate with thousands of others during a rally apposing the nuclear deal with Iran in New York (photo credit: REUTERS)
Protestors shout slogans as they demonstrate with thousands of others during a rally apposing the nuclear deal with Iran in New York
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Expect the unexpected. That’s never bad advice.
Nowadays, in particular, it seems hard to predict the future.
Lately, friends and relatives (and probably a lot of readers) have been having “what will be?” types of conversations.
These are to be expected as Jews everywhere are immersed in that peculiar period of soul searching that marks the days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, when it is believed that our fates for the Jewish year are sealed.
We can also be forgiven the angst that accompanies the Iran deal: that the region’s greatest supporter of terrorism has been granted a cash prize and been forced to postpone plans for nuclear weapons by a mere 10 to 15 years is not a comfortable thought. Just last week, Iranian President Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave a speech in which he said, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency: “God willing, there will be no such thing as a Zionist regime in 25 years. Until then, struggling, heroic and jihadi morale will leave no moment of serenity for Zionists.”
The English is as twisted as the thinking.
Personally, I believe that Israel will survive a great deal longer than a mere quarter century, and will outlast both Khamenei and the regime he represents. In the meantime, the Western powers should be looking at the rhetoric coming out of North Korea, which has strong ties with Iran and is sounding ominously similar. This is a global village, what happens in one neighborhood is reflected throughout.
A few years ago, an IDF officer on the northern border commented that once he could look out of his binoculars at night and be fairly confident that he would see the same thing the following morning.
Following the so-called Arab Spring and the disintegration of Syria, he can no longer be sure what he’ll see from one hour to the next.
Only a year ago, Islamic State was being dismissed as a bunch of terrorists driving beaten-up Toyotas in the desert. Now, it is in control of vast areas of Syria and Iraq, with tentacles in Africa and elsewhere, and the world seems deeply immersed in the clash of civilizations.
THERE IS, of course, a natural tendency to fear the unknown, although there’s no reason to think it will be all bad.
Just as things can change dramatically for the worse (last year’s kidnappings of the teens and war in Gaza come to mind) so can they switch for the better (the so-called Start-Up Nation is likely to produce technology in the coming years that we can’t even imagine today).
A few years ago it was being predicted that war in this area would be over water sources; today, thanks largely to desalination, Israel has been spared the adverse affects of drought.
(But who would have thought that a major topic of conversation in Israel over Rosh Hashana would be the weather, from the sandstorm to the sudden torrential rain in the South and the dramatic thunder and lightning.) During the second intifada period, friends, relatives (and even remarkable readers on a Hawaiian island) offered me a refuge if I wanted it – a respite from the relentless suicide bombings and attacks.
I wasn’t even tempted. I’m one of the majority of Israelis who finds it harder to be away from home when times get tough than to run away.
Now some of the same people, and their circle of friends and acquaintances, are considering moving to Israel, away from the anti-Semitism that has raised its ugly head particularly in Europe.
This year alone some 28,000 new immigrants arrived, a 35 percent increase over the previous year.
Europe should carefully consider the impact not only of the huge wave of refugees arriving from the Middle East and Africa. It should also consider the implication that in many places Jews feel threatened on the continent. It is not the sign of a healthy society.
It is also telling that, while not paradise (and a lot less tranquil than Hawaii), Jews feel happy to come live here.
Khamenei’s jihadist forces, their Hamas friends, and some of their Fatah opponents, are indeed doing their best to destroy serenity and any chance for peace, particularly in Jerusalem.
Israelis should not have to live with the threat of terrorist attacks, from stone-throwing (like the attack that took the life of Alexander Levlovitz this week) to fire bombings and worse.
Once again, world hypocrisy is astounding. Maybe the double standards are the only predictable thing when it comes to Israel’s status in the world arena.
Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt all expressed concern for Israel’s actions on the Temple Mount, threatening yet another unwanted diplomatic crisis.
What I didn’t hear was the condemnation of the Muslim thugs desecrating the Holy Site by storing fire crackers, pipe bombs and piles of rocks in the mosques, ready to attack visitors – Jews and Christians (and the police officers protecting them).
DURING MY Rosh Hashana reading I came across an article in Yediot Aharonot’s economic supplement offering free advice to the government for the New Year. Among the many suggestions, written I think by Sever Plocker, one really resounded with me: Israel should stop considering itself a small country. The population now stands at 8.412 million, according to the latest report by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
That makes the country bigger – population-wise – than Denmark, Finland, Norway, Ireland and New Zealand, among many others.
Israel’s population is made up of 6.3 million Jews (74.9%); 1.746 million Arabs (20.7%) and 366,000 others (4.4%). That means a lot more people speak Hebrew as their mother tongue than Danish, as Amos Oz and his daughter Fania Oz-Salzberger wrote in their wonderful book, Jews and Words.
Yet somehow the whole world seems to believe it has the right to tell us what we can and can’t do and even whether we are free to determine our own capital. When was the last time you heard a public discussion on the right of Denmark to control Greenland, for instance? Over in Iceland (population 328,925), the capital Reykjavik passed a resolution on Tuesday stating the municipality will boycott all products made in Israel. It’s going to be a lot easier for me to make a personal counter protest by pledging not to visit Reykjavik or purchase goods made there (whatever they are) than for the average resident of Iceland’s capital to forgo all technology or medical products created in Israel or with Israeli knowhow.
We’re not only bigger than we think; we’re better.
Just last month Israel was ranked the fourth-best place to raise a family, in a poll carried out by the Inter- Nations expat networking service.
The Family Life Index was based on factors such as the availability, quality and cost of childcare and education; family well-being; and leisure activities for children. The country was outranked by Austria, Finland and Sweden in the first, second and third places respectively.
Israel also did well in other sections of the wider 2015 InterNations Survey, which includes some 14,400 expats from 170 states living in 64 countries. It took the 11th spot in the “personal happiness” category and the 15th for overall “quality of life.”
We shouldn’t have been surprised given that Israel consistently scores high in the UN World Happiness Report, coming in 11th in the 2015 survey: The 10 happiest countries, according to this report, are Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Canada, Finland, Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand and Australia.
Social cohesion is a particularly important precursor to a society’s happiness, the report determines.
(Maybe the residents of Reykjavik are relying on this as they set off on their new Israel-free lives.) This is where we have the last laugh: Despite the well-publicized presence of Israelis in Berlin, and the lower cost of the much-loved Milky chocolate dessert there, the refugees flooding Europe are not coming from this part of the Middle East.
On the contrary: When Israel is under attack, its people come together, literally and figuratively.
Fortunately, happiness is not as elusive as peace. Evidently we’re happy to be here. There’s no other place in the world that can relate to the Exodus, the one thousands of years ago, as a homecoming.