Shabbat shalom! And a tip of the kipah this week to the State of Israel, celebrating its 75th year as a country!
Growing up Jewish in Holbrook, MA, a small working class, mostly goyishe suburb of Boston and Brockton, we weren’t exactly surrounded by Jews. We had a small, but tight Jewish community, and used an old converted Church as our synagogue. I learned Hebrew at Mr. Weans house, an affable old Jew with a distinctive, raspy high pitched voice, whose wife, Esther, used to drive us to and from their home two days a week. Mr. Wean had a large reel to reel tape recorder he referred to as “the monster”, that served then as a “high tech” tool for memorizing vocabulary and learning basic Hebrew language skills. (“Ish, Isha”, still resonates in my memory) And it seemed that every week, the seven of us seated around a large formal dining room at Mr. Wean’s house, learned a little bit about Israel, and were constantly being asked for donations to “plant trees in Israel”. I could never quite understand the need for planting trees someplace far away and foreign to me, and why they needed our money to do so. But I remember that it seemed important, and somewhere there may be a forest, or at least a few old trees by now, that represent my early connections to the Jewish State.
Over time, those connections to Israel, and the whole concept of Zionism, became much more important to me, and more clearly understood. Our people needed a safe haven, not just to survive, but to thrive as a “people”, to have a homeland, and to establish a Jewish state. Theador Herzl, considered the father of Zionism, wrote this in 1896 about the Jewish state he never lived to see:
The Jews who will it shall achieve their State. We shall live at last as free men on our own soil, and in our own homes peacefully die. The world will be liberated by our freedom, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness. And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind.”
The founding of modern Israel can be traced back to World War I, when Zionists lobbied the British for recognition of a Jewish state in Palestine. After World War II, the British withdrew from their mandate of Palestine, and the United Nations proposed dividing the area into Arab and Jewish states, an idea opposed by the Arabs. Nonetheless, Israelis declared independence in 1948 and the new country then defeated the Arabs in a series of wars.
And now, as Israel turns 75, this young country, roughly the size of New Jersey, and despite all the confounding headlines, has managed to live up to Herzl’s great vision. While I have only once visited this amazing country, I can’t imagine, in its brief history, a better time to live there than the present. And I can’t imagine that Herzl himself would have dreamed the country would become a world leader in business, science, and technology and accomplish so much in such a short period of time. Check out this shortened list of accomplishments:
- Israel has the highest number of Nobel Prize winners per capita, more than the U.S., France or Germany.
- Israel is now considered “start up nation” due to its tremendous entrepreneurial spirit and the volume of new technology companies it has incubated. The country has more venture capital per capita than any other country in the world.
- Israel is the only Middle Eastern country on the list of the world’s top 10 happiest countries. The UN World Happiness Report ranking is based on 6 factors: Income, life expectancy, social support, generosity, freedom to make life choices, and perceptions of corruption.
- Israel has the highest production of scientific publications per capita in the world
- Israel has the highest worldwide publication of new books
- Israel is the only nation which began the 21st century with a net gain in the number of trees (thanks to our donations!)
- Israel is the country with the highest percentage in the world of home computers per capita
- Israel has the highest relative immigration rate, absorbing 350 percent its population in six decades
- Israel has the largest number of chess grandmasters per capita of any city in the world
- Israel is the nation with the highest ratio of university degrees to the population in the world
So, while the country has issues, like any other industrialized democracy, don’t let your opinions and your pride fall prey to the algorithms of Twitter-dumb, the main stream media, and the boycott crowd. Don’t lose the forest for the trees that we planted so many years ago, and celebrate the tremendous accomplishments of the Jewish State we have connected with on so many levels. Happy birthday Israel!
Let’s end this week’s posting on that high note. Next week, I will return with a regular entry. But for now, let’s be careful out there.