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68 Years Young

May 12, 2016 | Sharyn Mittelman

68 Years Young
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This year Israel celebrates its 68th birthday – with much to be proud of. Israel’s existence is the realisation of the self-determination of the Jewish people in their ancient homeland.

Israel has provided a safe-haven for Jews fleeing antisemitism, including for Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, and those fleeing the repression of the Soviet Union, famine in Ethiopia, and expulsion and exclusion in Arab lands. 

Commenting on the miraculous nature of Israel’s existence, American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris wrote in the Times of Israel

For centuries, Jews around the world prayed for a return to Zion. We are the lucky ones who have seen those prayers answered. I am grateful to witness this most extraordinary period in Jewish history and Jewish sovereignty – in the words of Israel’s national anthem, ‘to be a free people in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem.’ And when one adds the key element, namely, that all this took place not in the Middle West but in the Middle East, where Israel’s neighbors determined from day one to destroy it through any means available to them – from full-scale wars to wars of attrition; from diplomatic isolation to international delegitimation; from primary to secondary to even tertiary economic boycotts; from terrorism to the spread of anti-Semitism, often thinly veiled as anti-Zionism – the story of Israel’s first 68 years becomes all the more remarkable.”

Not only is Israel’s history remarkable but its success today in business, technology, culture and lifestyle is inspiring the world. Israel’s outstanding reputation in innovation as a Start Up Nation has inspired many countries including Australia, and has also led to new partnerships with nations especially in Asia. 

And according to polls, most Israelis find Israel a wonderful place to live. For example, the World Happiness Index report ranked Israel the 11th-happiest country in the world, coming in above the US (13th place), the UK (23rd), France (32nd) and Italy (50th), and just behind New Zealand (8), Australia (9) and Sweden (10). The report was prepared by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the Earth Institute at Columbia University which ranked 157 countries according to several criteria: GDP per capita, social support, life expectancy, freedom of choice, and generosity.

Israel has also been named the fourth-best place in the world to raise children in the 2015 Family Life Index poll by InterNations. The findings were compiled by asking expat parents to rate the country they moved to regarding the quality, cost and availability of childcare and education.

Meanwhile, Israel’s population continues to grow, reaching 8,522,000 this year, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) – around ten times the population of Israel in 1948. According to CBS, there are estimated to be 6,377,000 Jewish Israelis (74.8%); 1,771,000 Arab Israelis (20.8%); with non-Arabs Christians and other minority groups accounting for around 374,000 people (4.4%). At the current rate of growth, CBS predicts that by 2035 the population of Israel will reach 11.3 million people.

AIJAC wishes Israel a very happy birthday and expresses our fond hope that the Israeli dream of peace and security will be fulfilled speedily.

Sharyn Mittleman

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