Looking recently at my family picture of 1929, I see the dirt street we lived on in Haifa, and we were middle class, mind you. And I cannot stop wondering at the miracle that is Israel. This little country (5% of California area), with minimal natural resources, has grown from 180,000 mostly poor people (in 1929) to 8.5 million people with one of the highest standard of living in the world. This progress came from determination, hard work, and immense sacrifices, creating a nation from Kibbutz Galuyot (gathering from abroad) of Jews with a wide diversity of culture, education, and experience.
Israel total economy (GDP) is $310 billion, more than Denmark, Greece, Ireland or Finland. It has one of the lowest foreign debts, just $12,000 per person. USA per person debt is five times larger, $60, 000 per person. But the little stories I talk about below are about the people: Jewish Israel is a big family, you are not alone, Israelis support one another. You feel what it means to be Jewish by the multitude of faces of energetic people you see on its noisy streets. And especially every weekend- on Shabat. On Yom Kippur, the country is closed. And when you hear the sirens of Memorial Day, all transportation and business stop, and you remember the 23,000 dead and over 100,000 injured Israelis casualties of its different wars and terrorism.
Israel is not perfect by any means. It is a human enterprise and therefore quite imperfect, full of mistakes and agonies too. Look at the USA imperfections.
Where else but Israel:
Two young immigrants met recently in Israel, fell in love and wanted to get married -but did not have the financial means. Few strangers heard about it, and raised money for a proper marriage ceremony and helped them to start a new life together. The couple was astounded and happy beyond words.” Where else but Israel” they said with a big smile.
And I am proud of the Israeli Air Force who to reduce civilian casualties, had three separate commands in the Gaza war: one team of aircraft to detect important targets, another one to do the bombing, and a separate command to stop the bombing if too many civilians were in the vicinity. And that is why General Dempsey, past Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said; we need to learn from the Israelis. Israel has the lowest civilian casualties to combatant ratio of any nation.
And the sacrifice Israelis made to bring nearly a million Russian and Ethiopian Jews to Israel and supported them to establish themselves. It cost Israel public over 20 Billion dollars.
And the time I was buying a glass of fresh orange juice in Shuk Hacarmel of Tel Aviv, and when the glass was almost full, I told the vendor: “that is enough, just give me the glass.” He refused, saying, “a full glass is a full glass”, and squeezed another fresh orange to fill my glass to the brim.
And the increased volunteering of Christian Arabs to the IDF, to serve their own country. And the beginning of Israeli Muslims volunteers to the IDF too.
And the time after the 2006 Lebanon war when I heard a recording in Hebrew of the communication between an Israeli fighter pilot and his navigator, deciding to abort their attack on a dangerous Hezbollah rocket- launcher because they detected a few small shadows near the Hezbollah weapon that might be Lebanese children.
And I am proud of the wisdom of Israeli Ministry of Development that started three decades ago to give no-interest, forgivable loans, to people who showed promise developing new products. If they succeeded, they had to refund the loan. If they failed, the loan was forgiven. This support started the rapid explosion of the uniquely successful advanced Israeli hi-tech industry: “Silicon Waddi”. It is so envied around the world that even the Chinese opened recently a development center in Israel.
Education first: And I was amazed looking at a 1924 picture of the nearly completed Technion buildings – Israel Institute of Technology- in Haifa. It was built before Israel had enough capable teachers and students to fill it, and now it is one of the outstanding technical institutes in the world. And the 1925 dedication of the Hebrew university with world-renowned guests, realizing at the beginning of Israel that knowledge is crucial to Israel success.
And the amazing scenery of faces of Jews from all over the world waiting to cross a major intersection in Jerusalem: Dark Jews from Africa, white faces from Northern Europe, tall, muscular Russian Jew, and petite women from France, all of them now Israelis to their core. Talk about Kibbutz Galuyot, the gathering of the Jews from all over the world, amazing.
Israel open door: And the time I was in Jewish men meeting in Sacramento CA when they said how glad they are to have an open door for them in Israel since they are not sure when they may have to leave their home in the USA to live safely in Israel.
And the heartfelt prayer a Sephardic merchant said for me when I bought cakes from him.
And the magical support of the “Lone Soldiers” who died in battle away from their home in the Diaspora, when hundreds of mourners come from all over the country to honor them.
And the pride my Leftists relatives showed in their daughter when she decided to join an elite military combat unit in the IDF, instead of being safe in a support activity. And the pride I had when she answered her father quickly and decisively when he complained that she, unlike other female soldiers, will have to serve three years in that combat unit. She said, “Dad, you want women equality, but you want women to serve less. That is not equality.” And the pride her parents had as they heard her answer.
And the minimal level of Israeli hate towards the Palestinians who have killed and injured thousands of Israel civilians. Despite all the suffering, most Israeli Jews do not look for revenge, but just a solid, secured peace.
And the amazing communication I heard in Hebrew by an Israeli pilot that was ordered to bomb the only bridge between Syria and Lebanon in the crucial first hours of the 2006 Lebanon/Hezbollah war. When he was over the target he radio his commander that he would not bomb the bridge at noon, as he was ordered to, since too many innocent civilian casualties would result, but would return at midnight to bomb it when only a few civilian cars would be on the bridge.
Just a few stories of that amazing country called Israel.