A year to highlight Israel’s strengths

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Israel’s 2020 highlighted our country’s incredible success and strengths.  As I write, we are in the midst of what appears to be an extended third national lockdown, with over 5000 people a day detected, and likely many more contracting, COVID-19. The airwaves are awash with people slinging mud at our decision makers. The politicians are condemned first and foremost, for their seeming inability to do anything in the face of the outbreak other than order us all to stay at home.  And all the while, the parliament itself decided it must dissolve, and send the people back to the polls for the fourth time in 2 years. It all sounds pretty bad. But it in fact shows our country to be functioning just fine. 

One can even look to the ever-present and chiefly important security front and find the rare positive report. A series of normalization agreements highlighted the rapidly shifting sands once again in this region, finally bringing Israel in from the cold. Iran was shown to be very vulnerable both in their adventurism in Syria and within the heart of their country. It’s yet unclear exactly why, but the IDF’s year-end report showed that the amount of mortars and rockets fired from the Gaza Strip dropped by almost 90% from the average of previous years. 

Throughout the pandemic, despite the infection rates spiking in certain communities, our government proved unable to enforce focused restrictions, and instead could only muster the one-size-fits-all approach of total national lockdown. This is political independence, in an ultra-flexible, multi-party system on full display. By design, no voting minority can get pushed around by another. Minorities in Israel are protected under the law, and empowered by the country’s system of coalition governance. In a small country as diverse as Israel, this is an enormous achievement, and this year posed a massive test for the young democracy.  

For all the elections and a hung parliament seeming dysfunctional at times, there has been no serious foul play. The rules have held, and each step of this ongoing saga has been governed by a mandate here or a law there. Despite our shaking heads, the repeated elections are the clearest display that everyone’s vote really counts and everyone gets a say; that the nation must find a way to get along in order to function. No one can rule over the other with any real power. This isn’t a two-party, winner-take-all system. When we are split in our own political camps, we must find ways to meet in the middle, and continue the unity that has brought us this far. 

This pandemic also provided a view to another of Israel’s strong points.  When we were told not to, we simply couldn’t keep enough distance from each other. And that’s not because it’s too crowded. Israelis have never been known to be good rule followers. Tight restrictions and social distance… its just not our way. This year Israelis, like so many others in the world, paid for that great human attribute in real lives. But that is ultimately the fault of a deadly virus, not a flaw in our society’s behavior or values. Some of the most beloved aspects of Israel are that strangers act as if they already know each other, that we find what we have in common, that authority is not omnipotent; nothing is black and white, and ultimately anything is possible. 

We’re lucky we have the incredible fortune as humankind to produce a vaccine within a year.  Now its Israel’s turn to shine. Following strict rules wasn’t our forte. We knew that. But activating our state establishments and many disparate communities to distribute a high-tech solution to a complex problem, is what we do best. We know how to mobilize in an emergency and take care of one another. It’s how this country was built, and how it has persevered through each decade’s challenges. Israel 2021, we’re in this together, and have never been a stronger unit.

About the Author
David Matlin is a senior news anchor at i24News and lecturer at the IDC's Schools of Communications and Diplomacy. He has worked extensively in pro-Israel policy, advocacy, and immigration. An IDF combat soldier, Magen David Adom volunteer, and former AIPAC Director, he earned a Masters Degree from Tel Aviv University in Diplomacy, and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Arizona. He resides in Tel Aviv with his wife and three children.
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