Tidbits From Israel
By Ron Jager
The recent World Happiness Report, which ranked Israel the 11th-happiest country in the world, was based on data collected from 156 countries from 2010 to 2012. The report ranked the happiness of nations based on a “life evaluation score” measuring health, family, job security, and social factors like political freedom, social networks, and lack of government corruption.
The index was a collaborative effort between the Vancouver School of Economics, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, the London School of Economics, and Columbia University. Israel jumped three spots in the rankings from last year, coming in just behind Australia. The United States dropped six spots, coming in at 17th. Israelis (including Israel’s Arab citizens) are much happier when compared to their neighbors in the Middle East. Jordan ranked 74th in the survey, Lebanon 97th, and Egypt 130th.
Despite this vote of confidence in Israel’s future sustainability, we are witnessing a concerted media campaign to present Israel in the most undesirable and critical manner. Blatant lies and fabrications are used to explain why Israelis are emigrating at an unprecedented rate: lies about a deteriorating education system, a lack of health care, hopelessness among young people, an academic brain drain, the spiraling cost of living, and soaring real-estate prices.
But these prophets of doom are easily dismissed by a brief presentation of facts: the Israeli economy has been generating new jobs at the rate of 100,000 to 120,000 a year, with the unemployment rate falling to an unprecedented low last month of 6.1%. As far as Israel’s “collapsing” health system, it was ranked 4th in the world in efficiency in a Bloomberg ranking, and the OECD has reported the Israeli health system as one of the best among the organization’s member states. Life expectancy is among the highest in the world; the number of suicides is among the lowest in the world. As for the “brain drain,” Israel’s emigration rate last year was the lowest in 30 years.
So with all this good news about Israel, why has this overall positive situation been transformed into descriptions of Israel as a horrible place to live? What are the motivating factors behind this home-produced campaign to question the success of Israel as a modern nation and as the home of the Jewish people?
This orchestrated campaign of lies can be traced to political parties, ideological NGOs, and media personalities who all support much of the leftist agenda that has been rejected by the electoral public in recent years. When the ballots repeatedly refuse to elect politicians supporting their leftist agenda and allow Prime Minister Netanyahu a third term, blatant lies become their only tools of persuasion. Yet to better understand their negation of Israel as a modern-day success story, we must look beyond ideology.
For these of our Jewish brethren, whether in Israel, in the United States, or elsewhere, the issue is that even if they are connected to Israel, they are not especially connected to their own Jewishness. Being Jewish simply does not turn them on. Even before Zionism existed as a movement, many Jewish intellectuals were uncomfortable with their Jewishness and sought to disconnect the Jewish nation from her Biblical roots as the Chosen People. The roots of this internal Jewish conflict can be traced to the Enlightenment, a movement among European Jews that began in the 18th–19th centuries and has continued until today, finding expression in the “new anti-Semitism” which doesn’t differentiate between anti-Jewish and anti-Israel.
Why do these Jews find it so difficult to express support for Israel? Is it because they confuse supporting Israel with supporting official policy? That is, if they disagree with Israel’s policies, do they find it impossible to express support for Israel itself? Supporting Israel has become for them messy and complicated. For them, praising Israel raises too many questions concerning their own Jewish identity and Jewish affiliation. These Jewish critics of Israel are not interested in a debate; their aim is not to engage or interact, but to undermine and demonize. Their opposition is not open to reason or goodwill. Their rejection of a positive narrative about Israel’s sustainable future only intensifies the geostrategic reality challenging Israel domestically as well as internationally, and they couldn’t be happier. For them, it’s the worse the better.
In recent days, two events seemingly unrelated yet having major implications for the State of Israel occurred almost simultaneously: the yearly memorial day for Yitzchak Rabin and the funeral of HaRav HaGaon Ovadia Yosef. The sheer numbers that came to pay final respects to Israel’s greatest rabbinical authority in modern times put Rabin’s memorial event in proper perspective as far as public support. The “peace narrative” rejected by the Israeli public has been superseded by the “Israel is a lousy place to live narrative.”
But, despite the efforts of opinion-makers to demoralize and weaken the resiliency of the people of Israel, this narrative will be rejected in the same manner that the Rabin legacy has lost most of its public support. In the future, when Israel will be the most emulated nation on the globe, no one will even remember who Rabin was, but I am sure that Rav Yosef will be quoted and read on a wide scale every day of the year. In the future, historians will be baffled when trying to understand why the sustainability of today’s Israel was ever called into question. v
Ron Jager is a 25-year veteran of the Israel Defense Forces, where he served as a field mental-health officer and as commander of the central psychiatric military clinic for reserve soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty in 2005, he has been providing consultancy services to NGOs, implementing psychological trauma treatment programs in Israel. Ron currently serves as a strategic advisor to the Office of the Chief Foreign Envoy of Judea and Samaria. To contact him, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ronjager.com.