Is this true? Israel's national product will amount to NIS 700 billion (about $196 billion) this year; the celebrations' budget totals NIS 70 million ($19.6 million) – 0.01% of the annual product. Calling off the celebrations will save 0.02% of the government's budget –
a lot less than a common statistical error.
And another calculation: The average cost of the celebrations will be NIS 10 ($2.8) per capita. Ten shekels in order to rejoice 60 years of the existence of a thriving Jewish state, the envy of many nations. Why this is a celebration for a bargain price.
"There's no reason to rejoice," Israelis say. Well, why not? There is a reason to rejoice. With all its shortcomings, with all its troubles, with all its doubts, with all its burdens, with all its sins, with all its deep sorrows, Israel of 2008 is one of the most successful countries on the face of the earth. On the human development measure we will rank 21st this year. On the public health measure we will rank 11th.
Are our children lagging behind in education? Yes, but the Israeli culture is flourishing these days like it never has before. And the economy? Let's look back 20 years. In 1988, Israel was considered an isolated, unstable country with a sick economy, in need of a permanent infusion of American foreign aid. Since then, the national income per capita has climbed from $9,000 to $26,000, also thanks to the strong shekel. Israel's absorption of more than 1 million new immigrants was a fantastic success. The flourishing of the high-tech industry has brought in $50 billion in foreign investments and has turned Israel into one of the leading countries in the information technology revolution.
One of the greatest inventions in history
True, the percentage of residents living under the poverty line 20 years ago was smaller than today, but the poverty line itself was almost 65% lower. The poor of 2008 are the middle class of 1988.
So why are we being stingy for NIS 70 million spent on celebrating?
I view myself as a critical journalist, particularly when it comes to social issues. I believe that journalism's duty is to point at the stains on the sun rather than be impressed with it when it shines every morning. But it seems to me that we are gradually losing our sanity, our ability to be proud of our achievement, and as a result – of our independent identity. We are beginning to believe in a distorted cartoon as reflecting Israel. And this is not the case: Israel is not the worst country. It's one of the best.
I have not forgotten about the occupation and its price, nor have I forgotten that a real peace agreement is just around the corner. I have not forgotten that the Arab world has recognized Israel and is openly declaring, in its own language, its desire for peace with us, for a price which is not unbearable, which is accepted by both nations. All we have to do is overcome the mutual distrust.
I have reread the UN committee's 1947 report which recommended the establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. The committee members acknowledged the Jewish people's right for its own homeland, although the territory allotted for that purpose was only enough for the absorption of a million more Jewish immigrants, not more. And I have read the remarks of the Syrian representative at the UN, who in the name of the Arab League explained that the Jews were of Khazari origin, i.e. from "Russian-Mongolian tribes," and thus "the Jews are not a nation." The Jewish people, the Syrian spokesman said 60 years ago, is a Zionist invention.
Even if the Jewish people is an "invention" (according to one popular theory these days, all of the world's nations, including the Palestinians, are "inventions" and "imaginary communities"), it's one of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind over the past 2,500 years. And so is the State of Israel.