COLLAGE: YULIA ZHOROV

Editorial: Israel at 75

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Editorial: Israel at 75

COLLAGE: YULIA ZHOROV

“When the Lord will return the captivity of Zion, we will be like dreamers. Then our mouth will be filled with laughter and our tongue with glad song. Then will they declare among the nations, ‘The Lord has done greatly with these.’ ” – Tehillim, Psalm 126

Seventy-five years ago, one of the greatest miracles in the history of the Jewish people occurred: The country of Israel was established.

In 1948, when the country was created, the Jewish population was 650,000. Over the next decade, about 1 million Jews made their way to the Promised Land and became Israelis. They mostly emerged from the ashes of the Holocaust, survivors who had experienced the unthinkable, and from Arab countries where antisemitism was official government policy.

Against all odds, and at a heavy cost, Israel survived wars with Arab countries in 1948, 1956, 1967 and in 1973. Thousands died in those wars; thousands more have been killed by terrorists who sought to destroy the country. Those wars, and Israel’s deterrence, eventually, led to peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan and other Arab countries.

The country’s achievements off the battlefield are just as miraculous: It has absorbed millions of Jews and other immigrants from all of the world; its Jewish population stands at 7.1 million. For decades, Israel was a socialist nation where people lived modestly – it was not uncommon to wait years to have a phone installed in your home, owning a car was rare, and not all main streets in cities were paved. TV was not available until 1966.

None of that impeded Israel’s contribution to the world. Since 1966, 13 Israelis have been awarded the Nobel Prize. Israel’s breakthrough discoveries in Math, Science, Medicine, Technology and other areas have been widely adapted throughout the world.

Yet, as Israel celebrates its 75th anniversary, it still faces numerous threats. Militarily, the biggest danger comes from Iran, which has been transferring arms into Syria for years. From there they are smuggled to Hezbollah – Iran’s proxy in Lebanon – which now has tens of thousands of rockets pointed at Israel. Meanwhile, Israel faces daily threats from Hamas rockets in Gaza, and attacks by Palestinians from the West Bank.

Israelis are united in defending the country, but now face perhaps their biggest internal threat. For years, Israeli leadership has been at a standstill – there have been five national elections since 2019, and the latest has brought hundreds of thousands of Israelis into the streets each week. The country is split – not on security – but on how to proceed as a democratic nation. The ruling coalition, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a group of largely ultra-Orthodox Knesset members, announced plans to gut Israel’s Supreme Court – which would allow the ruling coalition to appoint their own judges. This caught much of the country by surprise, as there was little discussion or debate on the subject leading up to the recent election.

While Israel’s military leaders are confident they can defend Israel, the bigger issue now is how the society will continue as a unified nation. The massive protests against the proposed judiciary overhaul have opened up a wider conversation about the country’s future. The protesters are largely employed, pay taxes and form Israel’s working core. They seek a voice about other issues such as religious policy and subsidies to yeshivas; the high cost of living in cities; the lack of affordable housing; and the amount spent on new housing and security in the West Bank.

At present, the country’s political leaders are trying to negotiate a compromise. They have no choice but to come to an agreement since the country’s economy, security and future rests on its population. As painful as this is for Israelis, it represents an opportunity to further unify this country as it looks back on its 75 years of miracles. Θ

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