70 years ago today on November 29, 1947 in Lake Success, New York, the United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of partitioning Palestine into Jewish and Arab States which laid the groundwork for the re-establishment of the State of Israel in May, 1948. The vote was 33 in favor, 13 against, with 10 abstentions and 1 voting absent. Curiously among those abstaining was Great Britain which, 30 years earlier had issued the Balfour Declaration which committed the UK to support the concept of the right of the Jewish people to a national homeland in Palestine.
It is nothing short of a miracle to note what has happened in the intervening 70 years. Although punctuated by a total of 15 wars and attempted insurrections, Israel today is a thriving democracy in the Middle East (however flawed some think it is), as well as a regional military power with a robust economy poised for continued growth and prosperity.
At the time of the re-establishment of the State in 1948 the population of Israel was just 806,000 souls. On the eve of Israel’s 69th Independence Day earlier this year, the population numbered approximately 8.680 million people. By the time Israel reached its 100th Independence Day in 2048, the population is forecasted to reach 15.2 million people.
Under what can only be described as very difficult circumstances, Israel has become home to 6,484,000 (74.7% of the total population) Jews and hosts, as well, some 1.808 million Arab citizens along with about 388,000 other nationalities. At its present rate of growth Israel will soon be home to over half of the world’s Jewish population and be able to claim its rightful place as the world center of Jewish. Of course, this with full recognition of the very vibrant diaspora communities worldwide whose continued intellectual and economic prosperity is critical to Israel’s continued success.
For those who remember the critical economic situation in which Israel found itself in its early years as a failed experiment in socialism, the fact that leading international credit ratings agencies (e.g. Moody’s, S&P, Fitch) today agree that Israel’s economy could grow by an average 3.1% annually to 2020 is, indeed, a miracle. Israel’s per capita GDP of $39,978 compares favorably with that of the UK ($39,900), Canada ($47,158) and the US ($57.647) and continues to grow in line with the country’s expanding commercial base. The World Economic Forum’s latest Global Competitiveness Index ranked Israel #3 in the world noting that it has a good capacity for innovation, high quality scientific research institutions and strong private sector spending and collaboration on R&D.
In terms of scientific creativity the country is known for its transformational R&D in the areas of life science, biotech, homeland security, cybersecurity, digital health, software, drone development, agri-tech, fin-tech, IoT, automotive technology and robotics. Most recently it has also become a world center of cannabis research and growth for use in medicinal applications.
Israeli companies continue to expand abroad as well. In 2016 Israel was the 13th largest source of foreign investment into the U.S. It is also the single largest source of franchise tax income for the State of Delaware, both simply amazing statistics for a country with such a small population living in a really bad neighborhood.
And the country has been innovative for its own welfare as well. Living in an area of the world that is continually challenged by water supply issues, Israel reclaims 86% of its water making it the world’s #1 performer in that arena. For comparison purposes, Spain, which holds the #2 position, reclaims just 19% of its water. Add to that the array of desalination plants on the coast that provide 55% of Israel’s water needs and the result is a country in the desert that is water independent. Israel also exports its water technology, both by selling products worldwide and by providing more than 10,000 brackish water experts to work in 54 countries around the globe.
The list of the country’s accomplishments truly has no end. Israel has become, in its almost 70 years of existence, the physical manifestation of the prophetic words of Theodore Herzl in his book the “Old New Land” wherein he said “If you will it, it is no dream.” Indeed! And may the miracle continue.