Israel at 69
In 1948, when Israel was established, there were only six hundred thousand Jews living in the land, most of whom were either Holocaust refugees or Holocaust survivors. Today, Israel’s population exceeds seven million Jews.
In the 1950’s, the CIA predicted that Israel will economically implode, as a nation of six hundred thousand took in a million Jews from Arab countries. Miraculously, Israel survived that challenge.
The 1950’s were also years of scarcity and austerity, during which Israelis lived on food stamps. Each family was eligible for a given amount of eggs and meat based on the number of household members.
In the 1960’s, Israel continued to grow, and on the brink of annihilation, achieved its staggering military victory in 1967, which turned it into a veritable regional superpower.
The 1970’s were highlighted by the trauma of the Yom Kippur War (1973) which Israel almost lost, and the political upheaval of 1977 which brought the political right to power for the first time, and also achieved more socio-economic mobility for Israel’s Mizrahi population.
The 1980’s included the Lebanon War and the expansion of settlements, and also – the implementation of the peace accord with Egypt (Israel vacated the Sinai in 1981).
The 1990’s were the years of the failed attempt to make peace with the Palestinians, the era of the suicide bombers, and the terrible trauma and tragedy of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin by a fellow Israeli-Jew.
The first decade of the 21st century has seen Prime Minister Barak’s fruitless but courageous attempt to make peace with Syria and the Palestinians, as well as Ariel Sharon’s disengagement from Gaza, his suffering of a major stroke, and his replacement by Ehud Olmert who eventually had to resign due to corruption charges.
Today, with Netanyahu back in office for the first time since 1999, Israel faces in the coming years some historical decisions to make. Will Israel perpetuate its hold in the West Bank, thus annexing de facto some 2.5 million Palestinians thereby becoming eventually a binational (Jewish-Arab) state, or will Israel opt for less territory, but end up with a more robust and solid Jewish demographic majority which will ensure the viability of Israel as both a democratic and Jewish state. Time will tell.
Mazal tov to Israel, and may we live to see peace in the Middle East, Amen.