Israel ranked 22nd in quality of living
Photo: Reuters
Yair Lapid
Photo: Yoni Hamenachem

A good year for Israel

Op-ed: Yair Lapid points to many achievements, but also to our flawed debate culture

I want to present an especially revolutionary argument: We had a good year. It wasn’t perfect, of course, and not even excellent. But it was certainly a decent one.


According to Newsweek, we live in a state that is ranked 22nd in the world in terms of the quality of life it offers. It may sound like a low rank, yet in fact it places us in the top 25% of world states, one spot above Italy and its pasta.


Israel’s annual per capita income is close to $30,000, just like Finland’s and New Zealand’s. Moreover, it’s an open secret that extensive parts of our haredi and Arab population bring the national average down, as for various reasons they do not participate in the workforce. If you remove them from the statistics, we are at a much higher spot, alongside Western Europe’s most developed states.


Because of this, we were accepted to OECD this year. Many people don’t quite know what this is: Well, it’s a club; the exclusive, leather-padded club of the states that did well for themselves in life.


Meanwhile, for more than three years now we have not experienced a suicide bombing in Israel. With the exception of one painful incident on the Lebanon border, our borders had been quiet the whole year. The only other border incident took place when an Interior Ministry official refused to allow Professor Noam Chomsky to enter from Jordan in order to deliver a lecture at Birzeit University. As one who read some of Chomsky’s lectures, I think the official was right: The Palestinians suffer enough as it is.


Oh, and we found gas.


Elsewhere, environmental activists, that is, guys with dreadlocks who look like they urgently need a shower won their fight for the Palmachim beach. As it turned out, real-estate sharks do not always run things around here.


On the cultural front, Adir Miller registered an unforgettable performance in a film about Holocaust survivors, Meir Shalev published a new book, tens of thousands of people headed to Zadok Ben-David’s exhibit at the Tel Aviv Museum, Leonard Cohen brought tens of thousands of people to hear his husky voice at the Ramat Gan Stadium, getting tickets to Aida at Masada was impossible, and the renovation of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem was completed.


On top of it, seculars and religious Israelis studied the Torah together nationwide on the eve of Shavuot. Only few countries can boast of such a lively, diverse cultural life.


And it’s also delicious around here. Home cooked food at Jerusalem’s Mahne Yehuda Market, Tapas Bar in Beersheba, Idy’s fish in Ashdod, the breakfasts at Shiri’s Home in Rosh Pina with the small buns, the cheese-filled eggplant at Al-Babour in Umm al-Fahm, Helena’s pizza in Caesarea, the special lunches served on Saturdays at Rafael, overlooking the Tel Aviv beach, and Hazan’s shawarma in Haifa. My God, I’ll start my diet tomorrow.


Our Nobel Prize winner

“For the first time, we brought national agreement on the notion of two states for two people” (Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of a government session a year ago.)


“The growth rate in the first six months of the year stood at 4%, compared to negative growth of %1.5 in the same period last year (The Central Bureau of Statistics’ announcement last week.)


Oh, and Ada Yonath won the Nobel Prize.


Meanwhile, local basketball star Omri Casspi had a wonderful rookie season in the NBA, while local soccer star Yossi Benayoun signed a contract with English champion Chelsea.


Elsewhere, the affair involving the Mizrahi girls in Emmanuel proved that an overwhelming majority of Israelis wholeheartedly object to ethnic racism and are willing to fight against it. The march for Gilad Shalit and the struggle on behalf of the children of foreign workers proved that Israelis are willing to hit the streets for an objective they deem worthy.


The Carmel Tunnels in Haifa were inaugurated six months before the deadline, Israel’s space agency signed a cooperation agreement with NASA (they will be mapping out Venus,) and our government earmarked NIS 50 million (roughly $14 million) to improving the service at government offices.


It was a good year, but we felt bad. Not because of the flotilla or the Galant document, but rather, because the discourse in the State of Israel these days is no less than terrible. The dialogue we engage in is violent, superficial, and inherently flawed. Nobody listens, nobody lets someone else finish a sentence, and everything is always personal, insulting, and automatically categorized into “with us” or “against us” – and those who are against us are necessarily corrupt liars.


We have lost the most basic characteristic of civilization: The ability to listen to someone who thinks differently than you and assume that he may be right as well.


The problem here is not the essence, but rather, the style. We have turned into a country of talkbackers, gossip columns, and smearing that replaces any possibility of to-the-point discussion. Israel, which is a country of contrasts, must find a way to restore its dialogue with itself. Otherwise, we will feel bad next year, too.



פרסום ראשון: 08.27.10, 15:32
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