By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
While we hear daily of terrorist attacks against Jews not only in the West Bank settlements and Jerusalem, and not only if they’re uniform, but also against citizens going about their daily business in the centre of the country; while international bodies pass all kinds of resolutions against Israel; while pro-Israel university students are given a hard time on campuses; while the BDS movement is gaining strength; and while even some governments – Sweden comes to mind – badmouth the Jewish state, objective reports have mainly good things to say about Israel.
Last Friday’s editorial in the Jerusalem Post reminded us that the real Israel – not the caricature painted by its foes – is a good and happy place. Referring to the just published United Nations Human Development Index it states:
“The index, which takes into consideration income, life expectancy and education for a combined development score, ranks Israel 18 out of 188 countries in human development. Not only did Israel’s score surpass by far all of its neighbors (Qatar is the highest ranked Arab state at No 32; Saudi Arabia, 26; Lebanon 67; Jordan 80; Egypt 108; and war-torn Syria at 134); but it outscored the EU and OECD averages as well. Countries such as France, Spain, Italy and even Japan scored lower than Israel; Sub-Saharan Africa scored the lowest.”
The paper cites the reasons for Israel’s prominent position: “the second lowest rate of maternal mortality in the world with just two deaths for every 100,000 births,” much lower than, for example, the United States. And all that with a high fertility rate.
Much lower figures are cited for homicide rates in Israel compared to the United States, even though they’re higher than in EU countries. Israel’s suicide rate is also relatively low.
I quote again: “And, finally, with regard to the overall life satisfaction, only the happy residents of Switzerland, Denmark and Iceland registered greater satisfaction with their lives, on a scale 0-10, than the Israelis.’
Being critical of one’s government doesn’t make for overall unhappiness but points to the open and democratic nature of Israeli society. Perhaps it’s this critical stance that contributes to the high standard of life satisfaction that exists here.
That’s definitely how I experience Israel. I deem it a great privilege to live here not only because of my commitment to Zionism but also because there’s something ineffably lovely about this country that makes life full and intense – not because of the fear of attacks and the disdain with political ineptitude in high places, but in spite of it.
And I write as a natural pessimist.
Let me cite the concluding paragraph of the editorial: “Publication of the UN Human Development Index presents a unique opportunity to celebrate Israel’s astounding achievements. This is not to say that there is no room for improvement. But sometimes taking the time to appreciate all that has been accomplished provides the strength to face future challenges with courage and optimism. There is no shortage of negative news about Israel. Every once in a while we Israelis should remember there is much for which to be proud.”
Jerusalem 19.12.15 (Motzaei Shabbat)