Monday, April 15, 2013

Israel, 65 and going strong!

When we look around Israel as it exists today the progress achieved in 65 years is nothing less than amazing.  Israel is seen as a thriving, affluent society, with multiple indicators of advancement.  And yet look where we came from, the most wretched and poorest of the earth, survivors of the Holocaust dragged themselves from Europe, from Displaced Persons camps, with absolutely nothing to their name.  Approximately 350,000 such survivors came to Israel in the years from 1949 onwards and they contributed immensely to the early development of the state.  Now only ca. half of them are still alive in advanced age. Some were not treated equitably by the State, but most were treated well, and many made major contributions, to the IDF, to politics and to industry. 
Then there were waves of immigrants, mostly forced out of their countries of origin in the 1950s, such as the hundreds of thousands of Jews from N. Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya).  There were the Yemenites, who were flown in with nothing, and the Ethiopians most of whom came as penniless refugees. And finally a million Russians, many of whom came with only the shirts on their backs.  Of course, there were also the immigrants from the Western countries, France and the English-speaking countries (UK, USA, Australia, S. Africa and so on) many of whom came with enough to live on and enough training to survive.  The joke was that in order to make a small fortune in Israel you had to come with a large fortune. From these diverse and persecuted people, Israel has become a great success story. 
Looking at the comparative economic situation, although Israel now has a large deficit, it is much better off than most of the euro zone countries.  During the calendar year 2012 Israel had a 3.3% GDP/capita increase, down from the previous two years when it was 5 and 4.4%.  But, although 3.3% is not so high, it is twice the average of the OECD group of European countries, and certainly much higher than such economic basket cases as Ireland, Greece and Portugal. The population of Israel reached almost 8 million at the end of 2012, according to the Israel Census Bureau.  Of these, 6 million are Jews (75%), the rest are Arabs (Muslims and Christians) (20%) and others (5%). Although terrorism is still an issue and rockets are fired continually from Gaza, the toll from terrorism is down significantly to 8 dead and13 injured in 2012 (compared to 450 killed and 2,500 injured in 2002), as a result of the security fence and excellent intelligence and IDF actions.  Israel also has the second greatest development of high tech start-ups in the world, only after the USA.  
If we look around at Netanya, as a typical city, we see many major developments, a new large stadium, the renovation of the city center (looks very nice), a new Mall and satellite city called Ir Yamim, that will have ca. 50 high rises (now about half built), a new satellite city across the main Haifa-Tel Aviv road called Amalia with the Netanya College, and many new hotels along the cliff top, including Ramada and Island Hotels.  Nothing the small minority of anti-Israel activists in the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement can do will reverse this consistent trend.   The Jewish people are an industrious and clever people, and we will survive and prosper, if we are left alone to do that.  And if any country or group of people try to stop us, beware, the gap between us and our enemies is growing all the time.  Yam Ha'atzmaut sameach!! 


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