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Israel At 69

April 28, 2017

         “Name a single country in the history of the world faced with internal and external threats comparable to those faced by Israel that has ever had a better record in human rights; a better record with compliance of the rule of law; a better record of concern for civilians? I have been asking that question now for 20 years probably to a million people around the world, and I’ve never gotten a single person even to stand up and name a country, because you can’t do it.”

-Alan Derschowitz

Is the State of Israel perfect? No.  Is she without fault? No. Still, despite having to maintain a vigilant defensive military posture against nations sworn to her destruction, Israel today boasts a robust economy and level of achievement unequaled by any other nation in the region and most countries in the world.

In celebration of her birthday, here are a few “undeniable” facts:

1) Israel is only 1/6 of 1% of the Middle East land mass.

2) Israel has the third highest rate of entrepreneurship-and the highest among women and those over the age of 55-in the world

3) With more than 3,000 high tech companies and start-ups Israel has the highest percentage of high tech companies in the world [apart from the Silicone Valley].

4) Israel’s paper currency has brail notes on them so the blind can identify them.

5) The glue on Israeli stamps is Kosher!

6) Since 1966, 12 Israelis have been awarded the Nobel Prize in various fields including chemistry, economics, literature, and peace.

7) Israel has more museums per capita than any other country in the world.

8) 34 political parties participated in Israel’s most recent elections.

9) The flag of Israel was designed to resemble a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl).

10) Hebrew and Arabic are the two official languages of Israel.

11) 75% of Israelis are Jewish, 17% are Muslim, 2% are Christian, and 2% are Druze. The remaining 4% belong to minor faiths such as Baha’i and Samaritan.

The above facts represent a snapshot of the vibrancy of Israeli society. Referred to as a Jewish state, Israel embraces religious and cultural diversity. She remains a shining light of democracy in a region torn apart by war and autocratic rule.

In celebrating Israel’s birthday, Jews must not shy away from the plight of the Palestinians and the onerous effect the struggle has on the State of Israel. At these moments I recall the words of the late president of Israel, Shimon Peres, who taught: “Peace with the Palestinians will open ports of peace all around the Mediterranean. The duty of leaders is to pursue freedom ceaselessly, even in the face of hostility, in the face of doubt and disappointment. Just imagine what could be!”

Happy 69th birthday Medinat Yisrael/State of Israel.

Rabbi Howard Siegel


© 2017 Beth Tikvah Synagogue, Richmond, BC, Canada
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