So much to celebrate!
By: Bev Goldman
The dramatic but so-longed-for birth of the State of Israel in 1948 heralded renewed life and new hope for millions of people: the chalutzim who had begun building Israel, draining the swamps, and preparing the land for agriculture beginning in the late 19th century; the almost 900 000 Jewish refugees who were forced to flee the persecution they suffered at the hands of Arab leaders in Arab countries in which they had previously lived relatively peacefully for hundreds of years; survivors of the Holocaust who dreamed of living in safety away from the terrors of history’s most barbaric atrocity; Jews in the diaspora who were ecstatic at the thought of finally having their own homeland to which they could go should the need arise; and many millions of ordinary citizens, Christians all, who fervently believed, and still do, in the Bible.
Today, 70 years later, Israel stands proudly as a beacon of justice, humanitarian ideals, technological advance, and an unremitting passion for constant growth and development in the third millennium and onwards. Despite having been forced into defending itself and its people in six wars, two major intifadas, many defensive operations, and continual and ongoing terrorist attacks from its enemies in the surrounding neighbourhoods, it has withstood armed assaults, offensives, and incursions, as well as media criticism and censure. And it has in the eyes of its supporters shown admirable restraint and prudence when under fire. By its enemies, however, it is described as tyrannical, draconian, and brutally repressive. I guess, however, that that is to be expected – they are dreadfully bad losers, despite all their efforts to distort history and redraft the narrative of the Middle East.
Israel is exciting, vibrant, challenging, and flamboyant. Geographically, it is a remarkable country, very small and yet with large areas of desert land not far from snow-capped mountains. It is home to the Golan Heights and the hills of Galilee, the Jezreel Valley, and the Negev Desert. It boasts the Jordan River, the Hula Valley, and Lake Kinneret. It contains the Dead Sea, the Arava, and the Gulf of Eilat. Its numerous parks, recreation centres, and open spaces are treated with love and respect by those whose task it is to care for them – because in Israel, nature in all its semblances is revered and reflects the country’s commitment to preserving it for future generations.
Technologically, Israel is a giant, foreseeing with amazing clarity what the world needs now (in addition to love), and what the world will need in the years to come. The innovations are remarkable: from drip irrigation to paint which transforms the sun’s rays into cool air-conditioning; from the invention of a real-time brain monitor for neurological disorders to the thinnest laptop charger on the planet; from the world’s first remote-controlled space laboratory to the prevention of cyber attacks on medical devices; from growing the tiniest cherry tomato ever to robots that clean toilets – Israel has been, and will probably always be, at the forefront of exciting, unusual, ‘and how-did-we-ever-do-without-it’ benefits for all of mankind.
At the risk of repeating what many (but certainly not enough) people already know, all computers, mobile phones, and similar devices contain Israeli technology. Countless diseases including cancer, HIV and AIDS, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinsons, epilepsy, emphysema, and others depend to a large extent for their cures on Israeli devices and medications. Spinal implants and heart pulse generators are Israeli, as are surgical lasers, the Pillcam, and artificial hearts. Numerous banks use Israeli software to prevent fraud. Multiple advanced mathematics techniques for youth have originated in Israel.
Scorned for its so-called ‘apartheid’ policies which are have been totally dismissed and disregarded by the real victims of apartheid, the black South Africans, who for so long languished as second and even third grade citizens in their own country, Israel is often the first responder anywhere in the world (except where the specific government myopically refuses its assistance for political reasons viz Iran and Iraq) to natural disasters which threaten the lives of thousands. Remember the devastating tsunami in Indonesia in 2004? The 2005 earthquake in Kashmir? The famine in the Congo in 2008? The storm in the Philippines in 2009? Haiti’s earthquake in 2010? Japan’s earthquake in 2011? Hurricane Sandy in 2016? Israeli aid was at every disaster, often first on the scene.
Israel’s humanitarian organisations are lauded across the world. There’s IsraAID (The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid); FIRST (The Fast Israeli Rescue and Search Team); IFA (Israel Flying Aid); SACH (Save a Child’s Heart); and LATET (Israeli Humanitarian Aid). There’s also MASHAV, the government initiative which is committed to empower those living in poverty to improve their own lives, and which operates in 140 countries around the world.
Israel today is the world leader in recycling waste water (90%) and will share its ingenious water (and any other) technology with whichever countries request it. Having resuscitated itself from being a desert into an oasis, and because it is very aware that the next world war will probably be fought over water (former World Bank vice-president Ismail Serageldin said in 1995: “If the wars of this century were fought over oil, the wars of the next century will be fought over water.”), Israel has developed masterful techniques which, when implemented, will render needless any hostilities by those judicious countries. But it’s not only the Israeli government that assists the world with water. The Israeli NGO “Innovation Africa” has since 2008 been using Israeli-innovated solar energy to provide clean water and agricultural aid to millions of Africans across the continent, including tens of thousands of refugees living in the war-torn Central African Republic. The same solar energy is being used to pump clean water and provide schools, orphanages, and medical clinics with light and refrigeration to store vaccines and medicines.
Israel’s economy today stands at more than $300 billion: in 1948 it was no more than $3 billion. It holds third place on the NASDAQ, below only the USA and Canada. It is prosperous, powerful, and progressive. It is also a military nation, a nation of young soldiers, men and women, whose commitment to protect and preserve their country is legendary. Many – far too many – have sacrificed their lives for their homeland, and each fallen soldier, irrespective of rank or age, has been accorded the respect and dignity worthy of those who have forfeited their lives that others may live.
Israel is a courageous nation, steadfast in its allegiance to the ideals enshrined in its Declaration of Independence: “To foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants … based on liberty, justice, and peace … and prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.”
The Declaration also recognised that, according to the United Nations, “the right of the Jewish people to establish their independent state may not be revoked. It is, moreover, the self-evident right of the Jewish people to be a nation, as all other nations, in its own sovereign state.” It is this, probably more than anything else, which has been the raison d’être behind the astonishing growth and progress of this young, vibrant, and fascinating country, whose citizens are truly the masters of their own fate and their own destiny.
Israel is a vibrant democracy, albeit with problems and obstacles to be overcome. It ranks among the world’s healthiest and happiest countries. Its cultural gifts – dance, music, theatre, literature – have been shared across borders and have been recognised and emulated for their uniqueness and their excellence.
Israel is a nation of dreamers, of adventurers, of explorers, and of magicians. Its people push the boundaries as far as they can go, and then some. They take risks; they challenge convention; they reach for the skies and, in doing so, they touch the stars.
David Ben Gurion’s words: “In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles”, will forever resonate among the Jewish people. They encapsulate everything that Israel has achieved these past 70 years, and more.
Happy birthday, Israel – may your future be bright, beautiful, and peaceful.