When you haven’t been in Israel yet, you’ll probably imagine the Jewish state as a war zone and a country full of troubles, especially now when Israel again makes the headlines because of a new wave of Palestinian terror.
But that’s only part of the reality in Israel.
The fact of the matter is that even during the current wave of Arab violence, Israelis continue to live their lives just like citizens of many other conflict-free countries. They are even happier than the average citizen of a Western country. The World Happiness Report of 2013 ranked Israel as the 11th happiest country in the world, before the United States (17th) and Great Britain (22nd).
Western Journalism reported last week how even in the Old City and downtown Jerusalem, thousands of Israelis were celebrating the Sukkot festival (Feast of Tabernacles) while Muslims continued their violent attacks elsewhere in the city.
On Monday, hundreds of Jews celebrated Simchat Torah in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. They danced with Torah scrolls while singing the ancient hymn “The eternal nation does not fear the long road,” at the spot where an Islamic Jihad terrorist murdered two Jews and wounded a woman and a two-year-old child on Saturday evening.
You can watch that here:
“In spite of everything, no one will stop the joy of the holiday. And in spite of the great pain we’re experiencing because of the murderous attack, we won’t be stopped,” one of the participants said.
Simchat Torah marks the conclusion of the reading of the weekly chapters of the Torah and celebrates the renewed reading of the Torah, when the first part of the book of Genesis (Bereshit) is read. The festival is characterized by so-called Hakafot (circuits) when the congregants dance and sing in the synagogue and (later) in the streets while carrying the Torah scrolls.
Elsewhere in Israel, secular Jews celebrated Sukkot and Simchat Torah with different events. At the foot of Mount Gilboa, the mountain where King Saul once fell on his own sword (and three of his sons were killed in a battle against the Philistines), an international hot air balloon festival was held. It was only the fifth time such a festival took place in Israel.
The most important attraction during the festival in Ma’ayan Harod was a stunning act by six Israeli skydivers who jumped out of a hot air balloon at a height of 6,500 feet while filming with GoPro cameras.
A guy with the name Israel can be seen jumping out of the balloon, after which he starts filming his two friends who step up the basket, grab each others’ hands, and follow suit.
You can watch these stunning images here: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4707071,00.html
The special spirit of Israel surprised Times of London columnist Luke Johnson, who just returned to Great Britain and dedicated his latest column to – in his words – this “astonishing country, buzzing with energy and confidence.”
Here’s a part of Johnson’s article:
Israel is “a magnet for talent and investment — a cauldron of innovation. Meeting entrepreneurs and investors there, I was inspired and impressed.
Whether it is in aerospace, cleantech, irrigation systems, software, cybersecurity, pharma or defence systems, Israel is a world-class player. It is an example of how small nations can triumph despite the odds.
Its spending on research and development as a percentage of GDP is the second-highest in the world; it has more scientists and engineers per head than anywhere else; and a booming ecosystem of research institutes and venture capital helps to fuel technology transfer and outside investment — especially from America.
From Teva Pharmaceutical to Elbit Systems to Mobileye, its recent industrial achievements are remarkable. All this derives from brainpower, for Israel has no natural resources and is surrounded by hostile neighbours.
It is proof of the power of technical education, immigration and the benefits of the right sort of military service.
The book Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, by Dan Senor and Saul Singer, says another key factor is the cluster effect of having so many hi-tech companies, suppliers, researchers and investors concentrated in a small area.
Israeli journalist Ben Caspit recently explained what’s probably behind the happiness and the special spirit of the Israeli people.
What is the secret of Israeli vitality? The formula has yet to be deciphered. In my opinion, the existential hardships and constant threats looming over Israeli society are responsible for the bursts of adrenalin that energize and spur Israelis on.
Everything in Israel is to the extreme, honing the senses, awakening existential instincts, galvanizing people and making life much more interesting and challenging than in the (relatively) calm, peaceful and affluent Western countries.
These societies have lost their basic instinct for survival. Fertility is far below the bar in determining growth or extinction. To survive, a society needs a replacement birthrate of about 2.18 children per family. In several European states, the rates are much lower.
The famous Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times” is fully fulfilled in Israel, and it turns out that it’s a blessing. Life here is interesting, even fascinating, and that makes Israel a difficult place to live, dangerous, somewhat loony and apparently an optimistic and happy place as well.