Thursday, May 08, 2014

The cranes are flying

Our daughter went on an AACI trip to Bulgaria as their representative.   She was impressed by the beauty of the country and the snow-capped mountains, etc.  But, the thing that struck her most compared to Israel was the lack of cranes!  Cranes?  Yes, everywhere you go in Israel you see the ubiquitous high cranes dotting the skyline.  Buildings are going up at an incredible rate.  In Netanya alone there are about 50 high rises and many more are being built.  One can usually see about 12 cranes from any location, and this is true of all the major cities in Israel.
These cranes represent the affluence and level of economic activity in Israel, compared to most European countries.  Israel is in fact a hive of economic activity compared to most other countries.  That's why Israel has the second largest number of start-ups in the world after the USA.  That's why Jews are immigrating, as well as due to anti-Semitism in the Diaspora and their Jewish or Zionist beliefs.  There is a huge apartment market in Israel.  This results from the million or so Russian immigrants who came in the past 30 years now being able to afford to buy their own apartments, and the many French immigrants who can also afford apartments.  There are also increases of immigration from Hungary, because of the increase of anti-Semitism there, from Ukraine, because of the uncertainty of the political situation there, and from S. America, where Jews are beginning to reassert their identity.  All this adds to the pressure on apartment prices.  
The Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS) in Israel has just published its latest figures.  The current population of Israel is 8.2 million, with 75% Jews, 20% Arabs and 5% other (mostly non-Arab Christians).  There were over 157,000 immigrants, mostly from France, Russia and S. America, and 178,000 babies were born in the past year.  Israel is a growing vibrant society, so different from the surrounding Arab societies, including the Palestinians.  If they are not engulfed by violence they are stagnant, and their populations tend to decrease due to death and emigration.  These societies are not democratic, their elections are a farce, such as those taking place in Egypt, Syria and Iraq, where there are either military dictatorships or people vote according to their ethnic/religious groups, such as Sunni, Shia or Kurd.  In most Muslims societies differences lead to conflict, since the idea of compromise is absent, in fact someone said there is no word for compromise in Arabic.

The most significant statistic about any country is its population.  On that score Israel is larger than many other countries in the world, such as Bulgaria (7.9 m), Ireland (5 m), Denmark (5.6 m), Norway (4.3 m), New Zealand (5 m), Georgia (4.2 m), Lebanon (4.2 m), Lithuania (3.4 m) and so on.  Israel also has very active military and high-tech industries. For a small, relatively young country, Israel is quite a significant player on the world scene. 


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