Beyond the Cusp

April 5, 2019

Unexplainable Joyousness in Israel


As Olim who have been in Israel only a few years, we are constantly amazed at how absolutely wonderful and friendly life is. This is even more amazing as we have not learned sufficient Hebrew to actually talk to Israelis such as store clerks or when attempting to make medical appointments and other similar arrangements. Most of the time, if the people we get on the phone do not speak English, they will actually follow through and provide a person to call back who speaks sufficient English to deal with whatever it is we are attempting to accomplish. But that and the fact that, even when there is not an English speaker, they will calmly and politely play charades as we use presumed common gestures to get our message across. This has led to some interesting misunderstandings as you can probably guess. Still, we are making progress in teaching all of Israel English, or at least in our small circle. Yes, there are those who are assisting with our learning Hebrew, but the rest of them will learn English by the time we become proficient in Hebrew. But our experiences are but a small part of the whole. Israel ranks as the thirteenth happiest nation on Earth. That is at least according to the survey which placed Finland as number one and Norway close behind, or as we call them, the frozen chosen. Almost everything we have dealt with thus far has been at least pleasant even if the people at the bank cannot agree amongst themselves how to get things done. This, along with other small aggravations, is largely due to Israel being a rather young nation not yet a century old. But let’s take stock at all the reasons and problems which make Israel appear to be misplaced even making the top one-hundred, let alone thirteenth.


Israeli Defense Force at Play on a Beach

Israeli Defense Force at Play on a Beach


There are almost innumerable reasons against Israel even ranking on a happiness scale when you take a first look at the news and other coverage of us. Often the first thing that people point to is that Israel is surrounded by nations which wish to kill her down to the last person. They add that these enemies stretch for thousands of miles east and west and a fair distance south with Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and then Europe heading north and then west. Turn eastward just north of Turkey and you will soon be in Russia. It is a wonderful neighborhood as long as you remain within our tight little borders. Then there is the fact that Israel is on a war footing 24/7 with threats of war being thrown in our faces regularly. Currently, Hamas is debating whether or not they wish to risk an all-out war with Israel or just to walk that tightrope where Israel does not respond with full-force. Iran is behind the scenes right now encouraging Hamas and Islamic Jihad to press the envelope even if they end up crushed by an Israeli response. Iran is thinking that if they can press the envelope and not quite get an all-out Israeli response, then they may just succeed in making Bibi Netanyahu appear to be weak and thus lose the upcoming elections. What they are apparently unaware of is what the actual result of their efforts are producing. These attacks are overt and obvious in their intent but still they will cause some voters not to vote Likud because they are not responding with sufficient force and much of what their responses have been are seen as farcical. Those who decide not to vote for Likud in order to replace Bibi are not going to vote for any party which is to the left, they are going to vote for one of the two main choices which are more Zionist and to the right. They might decide they want to vote for a party which has a military man who has seen combat and understands how the military function, a general who trained in a combat position for example. Seeking a general one might immediately jump to the Blue-White Party which touts having four generals of which three have been Chief of Staff. That sounds so very impressive until one inspects their military careers and finds that they often were overly cautious to the point of giving an appearance of timidity. One of the four generals in this party is one who might make an excellent Prime Minister except he is not heading the party, the biggest paper pusher of them all is the leader, and we will leave it at that. So, to whom are you intimating?


The person we refer to is not known for his military career despite his service being quite exemplary. This general was the head of the Otzem Pre-Military Academy now located in Yated. He established the academy in 1993 in Bnei Atzmon which was within the limits of Gaza. He oversaw their orderly evacuation with passive protests while doing all they were able not to make the IDF soldiers become uncomfortable with their necessary efforts to remove the students. His intent, as best as we are able to ascertain, was to minimize the stress and shock of the events to both his students, who were training to be IDF soldiers, and the IDF soldiers tasked with their removal. To those who have challenged his decision, we can only inquire what they would have had school age children do while remembering that this was already an uncomfortable and potentially scarring set of conditions. He thought of the children in his charge as well as the IDF soldiers, some may have come from the academy, and did what he thought best means of causing them the least chance for any permanent psychological trauma. Rabbi Levi explained about our former general that he did not want to enter politics, “It should be said in his praise that he didn’t want the job and needed to be convinced.” This gentleman was a combat helicopter pilot, so he definitely received combat training and flew whirlybirds, something which takes great skill, dexterity, concentration and stamina. Helicopters are some of the most intricate of the aircraft as some of the controls are counterintuitive in how they are used. I was only trained on a simulator when I trained as a crash-rescue airfield firefighter as we had to pass a simulator test just in case we were required to move a helicopter away from a crash scene or for any other reason. Training for moving fixed-wing aircraft, airplanes, was vastly more simple as those you just roll along the ground and steer them the same as one would a car. Helicopter pilots have my greatest respect for their abilities. Finally, he served as IDF Chief Rabbi for six years, a very select and prestigious position. We are speaking of the quiet strength of Brigadier General (res) Rabbi Rafi Peretz, the newly elected leader of the Jewish Home Party. Confession, we belong to Jewish Home and have since we selected a party when we named the party we preferred so as to be able to vote in primary elections and other party activities. I am also a member of their Central Committee which approved Rabbi Peretz.


But there are other reasons why Israel making the top twenty of a list of happiest nations on a list where it initially appears to be a list of the most socialist left-leaning nations favoring Europe is surprising. The fact that the United States ranks at number nineteen, six positions below Israel, is another surprise. Israel is the most sanctioned nation by United Nations resolutions and faces an international movement, the BDS movement, aimed at isolating Israel economically from the rest of the world. The nation consists of largely desert regions yet much of the northern half of the country is green and filled with farmland. Israel has a limited access to fresh water but has made up for the lack of fresh water sources with desalinization plants to augment the water provided largely by the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). Israel basically has two seasons, so we are either having rainy weather or the hot and dry weather of our summers. In Israel, we are usually very happy to have rain but by this time of the year, we are becoming anxious for the summer. By the fall, we are really ready for the cooler weather despite the rains, or possibly, because of the rains, which accompany the cooler weather. Regions of Israel receive snow, specifically Mount Hermon where the Israeli ski resorts thrive during the winter months.


Skiing on Mount Hermon

Skiing on Mount Hermon


As happiness is often thought to reflect wealth, with Israel ranked just over thirtieth in the world proves that money is not everything. Israel ranks thirtieth in a Quality of Life Index. These ratings would lead one to expect Israel to rank similarly for happiness, but we rate far higher than many expect. Much of this has to do with things which are less easily measured. One is that Israel is a rather religious nation and that applies to all the different religions practiced within our borders. We have a wide choice of fresh fruits and vegetables which are largely grown within Israel through some of the most advanced agricultural methods, innovations and scientific developments which include variants of grains, fruits and vegetables which are better adapted to the climate in Israel. The agricultural wonders are only likely to increase as more of the southern Negev Desert is made arable through irrigation and further adaptable plants are developed through cross breeding and other methods. Many of the Israeli innovations, which are shared with developing nations around the world, can be read about with a number of informative videos in this article titled, 12 Ways Israel Feeds the World, an article which contains many interesting facts. The fact that Israel assists many nations from providing special cell towers, which are powered by solar energy and advance batteries for previously isolated villages in Africa to being one of the first nations to arrive to assist after natural and other disasters and almost always the last to leave, to sharing agricultural advances and medical advances, procedures and inventions often at no cost to the nations we assist. Knowing that your nation is actually fulfilling its desired aim of being a light unto the nations gives one pride. Realizing we do this giving freely, even to the same nations which condemn us repeatedly in votes taken at the United Nations General Assembly as well as countless United Nations agencies, we still get no reassuring support. Israel actually does what we would preach we do if we were to go around beating our chests and yelling, we did that. Instead, we arrive quietly and depart quietly always having the people with whom we interacted very happy that we came and lent a hand. Below is CNN news coverage of the earthquake aftermath in Haiti and the second is a special case from Haiti, George, a dancer, had his leg crushed requiring amputation. The Israeli doctors made arrangements for George to go to Israel and be fitted with a very special prosthetic specifically designed allowing him to return to his life’s love and career as a dancer. He is an excellent dancer even with his new leg.


The people of Israel are a mix which comes from every corner of the world. We are not a purely European group of Jews who had nowhere to return to after World War II. The Arab world across the Middle East and Northern Africa forced out virtually all of their Jews who were mostly only able to find one nation willing to take them in, Israel. Israel sent aircraft and boats to assist these refugees, over eight-hundred-thousand in all, in returning to their new home in Israel. We will not claim that there were not difficulties as when you almost double the population in a short period of a nation under fifteen years in age, there are difficulties in finding employment, housing and virtually everything one could imagine. In many cases, these Jews were permitted one suitcase each and those were inspected to make sure that they were not leaving with any item of wealth such as money, jewelry, paintings or other such items. The Jews from these Arab nations were just as destitute and quite traumatized just as the survivors of the Holocaust had been when coming to Israel. They also arrived in a nation being threatened by the same world they had just been expelled from and they would see wars as the Arabs attacked Israel in three major wars in barely over her first twenty-five years. Still, the people have a vibrancy and love of life which is infectious. The love and pride in their homeland is also evident and we all agree on one thing, despite any problems, we are home where we will not become victims of the government and be thrown into death camps with an intent on eradicating the Jews. We are in our country and for better or worse, we know we are home, and that is a very wonderful feeling for a people who have been victimized, persecuted and attempted to be eradicated throughout history, and as Jews, we remember our history. Why is Israel so happy? Perhaps it is the air, the people, the great food, the ice cream shops almost every other block, the beaches, the skiing, Jerusalem, the history and the fact that it is home and always has been the home we dreamed in which to live. We cannot explain why, but we can only be surprised that we are not rated higher. Sure much of the world loves to hate us, but at least now our own country will not hate us and mistreat us because it is actually and really our own country finally and at last, after over two-thousand years, we are home.


Beyond the Cusp


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