Fred Hidvegi

The myth of the greatness of Israel’s economy

Israel’s economic achievements are not entirely its own success, to say the least. 

The myth of the great might of Israel’s economy is a notion I hear too often as a high schooler. A week doesn’t pass without me and my class hearing about how advanced and developed Israel and its markets are, especially compared to the rest of the Middle East. It can be true, but it doesn’t remove its use as a propagandistic weapon to use on the average Israeli child and teenager. Because if it doesn’t get imprinted in the minds of the ones that are still young, it hardly ever will. 

For example, we hear an unfair comparison between Iraq and Israel, and we think “what a fair sentiment to have.” 

We don’t think about a trade embargo the US placed on Iraq or the civil war or the coups the CIA ran in the country or the Iraq wars perpetrated by the US, all of which curbed its ability to even remote economic success. 

We, as kids, are told that while Israel has no one to thank for its development, other countries that surround us are “failing” simply because they aren’t as good as us. 

We are successful, we have the mighty high-tech, the great tourism, and education that are all our own achievements. We never talk about charitable Jewish people and institutions abroad, who invest in Israel every year. The libraries and the schools that are named after huge donors, for instance. 

After its inception, Israel was a very insignificant country with an economy troubled by the war for independence. It took decades for it to grow into the middle power it is today. 

The start-ups though! Oh, bless the start-ups, the start-up nation, and the Holy Spirit that guides the start-ups! Well, of course, the start-ups came from abroad as well. Investors looking for opportunities happened to find them in the Mediterranean. 

By not highlighting the foreign aid that lead to our success in multiple fields, we are perpetrating the myth of Israeli excellence, which, historically means growing right-wing nationalism and the dismissal of alien cultures. 

By emphasizing to our children the superiority of ourselves and our country, an entire generation of Israelis will grow up similarly to US American children, who believe that their country is the one and the only and the best and the first and the greatest and. 

I think that schools and especially parents have to bear the responsibility to raise their children in a way that makes them develop critical thinking skills in them. As someone surrounded by Israeli teenagers, I know that very few of them actually have these skills and one can easily see that populist notions have taken over in their worldviews. 

Yes, Israel has achievements it can thank “itself”, even if it’s the educated Jews that brought the financial success with them. But we, as a nation cannot regard ourselves as self-made, because of the same reason that a millionaire or a billionaire cannot consider themselves self-made. Because the world is not a meritocracy, the ones who succeed can thank their luck first and foremost. There are plenty of people and countries who “work hard”, but never succeed. 

So when talking about Israel and its monetary achievements we cannot disregard the help we received in the process, because creating myths in order to please a country’s citizens has never once worked the way it was intended, and without aggressive consequences.

About the Author
Fred is an 18-year-old writer sharing his many thoughts about American and Israeli politics. He was born in Budapest and since he was 11, he is also an Israeli citizen.
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