Search our Archives:» Home
» Opinion & Society
By Amos ben Ami
From the year 1948 until 2005 is 57 years. When we look back on those past years in which the State of Israel has progressed, we are impressed with the spectacular growth amidst the seemingly constant attack upon its existence.
We are proud to be Israelis and we are proud to live in our land, the ancient land of our heritage. It is in this land that we wish to bring up our children and develop in them the revival of the ancient spirit of our forefathers.
At the conclusion of each financial year, businesses are accustomed to see how they did in relation to the other years. They also try to see errors that they committed and in which ways they can improve their lot. So it is with us, the citizens of Israel.
We want our country to reach it fulfillment as the model state. Yet we must have our guidelines to know what constitutes a great country.
First we must acknowledge that there are several factors that make a country truly great. One is the internal financial situation. Another is its ability to defend itself against its possible enemies. Another is internal rating: how does the state treat its citizens compared to other major countries. Also self understood is the stability of the government.
With these parameters in mind, let us assess how the little Jewish State stacks up.
* * *
What is Israel's internal financial situation? For a country to be a success, it must be financially solvent, and it must possess a positive balance sheet. Does it export more than it imports, or is it the other way around?
Israel seemingly does not possess the raw materials that other counties have. We have no gold or silver mines, no oil, no lumber or iron deposits; we do have much rock, however it is not very salable. What natural resources that Israel does possess are its historic sites; Israel is the home of the ancient Temples and civilizations. One of the resources that can draw money to Israel is tourism. In fact, for many years tourism drew many tourists and hence foreign capital to Israel. Unfortunately, due to successive governments' weak policies toward the intifada and terrorism in general, tourism has plummeted. What one country would view as an act of war, the destruction of its livelihood, Israel seems to have glossed over.
Another source of income is the lush fruits that it exports to the European countries and its diamond exchange. These two are important sources of bringing money to Israel.
Another up and coming source is the computer sciences. Since software and computer production do not require large imports of raw material, Israel can use its natural resources of a highly intelligent population to produce software and computer chips.
However, it is unfortunate that the greatest source of income is schnorring. Schnorring, for those who don't know, is the world's oldest profession, - of the Jews that is. Schnorring means collecting handouts. Jews have been living for years based on handouts. These handouts exist on all levels from the highest to the lowest. On a personal level, schnorring is a major source of income for the growing religious population in Israel who go abroad to schnor money from other wealthier Jews. Many institutions and hospitals have fulltime money raisers whose chief job is to bring in funds from abroad.
Even on the national level, the government of Israel schnors money from other governments. Every Prime Minister must go to Washington to request money from Uncle Sam, without whose help this country may just plummet.
Add to this the Jewish Federations around the globe who raise money for the Israeli government and in addition, give generously to various institutions here, after they deduct their own salaries. We see that one of the most important industries, if not the most important, for Israel is schnorring.
In terms of industry and related growth, Israel has done a terrific job in laying an infrastructure of roads and communications networks. However, the wholesome competitive industrial output is lacking. There is no heavy industry of sorts that rival any European country; yet most Israelis purchase imported cars, appliances, and electronics.
In terms of defending itself, the Israeli army is, thank G-d, very capable of defending the country against enemies. The individual soldiers are highly motivated; they have no other choice! They are dedicated and intellectually capable of complex instructions and thinking under fire. Unfortunately, compulsory military service is an all-encompassing way of life here and each man and women must take the army into account as he/she plans their life.
Politics is another story. Like France after World War I, Israel is not a united country in the political arena. The extreme elements of society seem to always muster enough votes that they must be considered in the country's politics. The fermentation of hatred, pitting Jew against Jew is common. Underhanded deals must be cut with the main parties, and this affects the country's ability to chart a distinct and intelligent course. One government starts in one direction, and when it falls, the next government turns in the other direction, erasing any "gains".
In addition, the government is not a true representative organ of the people. Israelis do not vote for a person, they vote for the party. The politician is not answerable to a constituent, but to his party, for it is party loyalty that will give him a listing in the next elections. This means once a politician is elected, he has NO responsibility to any citizen, only to his party. If there is anything that corrupts the countries and generates leadership difficulties, it is this aspect of elected politics. This should be changed.
The last parameter is the satisfaction of its citizens. Surprisingly most Israelis love their country. The medical and legal services are not really on par with most European countries. Judges and lawyers are corrupt, starting from the Supreme Court on down. Since this court fails to provide a model of unprejudiced legality, law suffers all around the country.
The medical profession is rife with quacks and doctors who have been reduced to pill pushers. Doctors find it difficult to make a living without resorting to quickly asking the patient what his illness is, and quickly printing out a prescription so that he can see another patient and make more money.
The Kupat Cholims, (the various national health organizations) who exist to provide health care for their constituents are constantly cutting corners so that they may make more money. The loser is the individual, but the Israelis are basically happy since they have some heath insurance. Like the poor man who knows not what he is missing, the average Israeli is happy with what health care he has unless he needs expert care.
Looking towards the future, it is incumbent on Israel to develop more industry that it may bring its standards of living up to meet that of the modern world and insure a continued growth. It must revise its archaic system of political elections that result in governments who lack the ability to carry out a proper planning at all levels. It needs a government that is answerable to the people.
But, you know, Israel has been around for only 57 years. It has pulled itself up from a very poor country to a moderately wealthy country. It has seen many wars in its short time. I am certain, that with a few more years we will see Israel improving and moving ahead to be meeting all the expectations that we put on it. Or as the average Israeli says, "Elokim Gadol!" which means, G-d is great, since he wants his children to return to their lands, He will give them the wisdom to accomplish it.
We will just have to wait to see what G-d has in mind for this new year in the life of the State of Israel.
To the Current Index Page
To the Big Archives Index Page