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Independence Day: Israel's first 70 years surprised the world



In November 1947, one day before the expected UN vote on the partitioning of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, CIA President Harry Truman urged not to back up the idea. America would have to defend the new Jewish state if it faltered, the CIA warned in its secret memorandum, adding that "the Jews can not stand for more than two years."

Several months later, David Ben-Gurion was on his way to explain the founding of the State of Israel. Among the ten or so men who were destined to determine the fate of the future state, he turned to one of his chief military commanders, Yigael Yadin, and asked him if he believed a new Jewish state would survive the military onslaught that would inevitably start the Arabs. Yadin, who later served as Israeli army chief of staff, responded that he believed the Jewish state would have a 50-50 chance.

Today, these gloomy assessments feel like old history. When the modern Israeli state celebrates 70 years, the prevailing sentiment is an extraordinary achievement. American Jewish leaders were incensed in 1

948 when Ben-Gurion came to the US and talked about the young state as a new center of the Jewish world; Today, this status is not without doubt.

In 1948, there were about 650,000 Jews in Israel, representing about 5 percent of the world's Jews. Today, the Jewish population of Israel has increased tenfold and amounts to about 6.8 million people. About 43 percent of the world's Jews live in Israel; This population overtook American Jews a few years ago and is today the largest Jewish community in the world. Israel's birth rate is even higher among secular Jews than in any other OECD country and much higher than that of American Jews (which now make up about 34 percent of the world's Jews).

Beyond Survival, the Other Challenge, The Young Jewish State That Was Confronted Nourished and Housed the Hundreds of Thousands of Jews Who Flocked to Its Limits. Sometimes the financial collapse seemed imminent. Food was rationed and black markets developed. Israel had virtually no heavy infrastructure-building machinery that needed it urgently. Until Germany paid for Holocaust reparations, the financial situation of the young state was dangerous.

Today, this concern also feels like a relic from another time. Israel is not only a major military power (and a superpower in the region), but also a huge economic machine. As a global technology center with more companies on the Nasdaq than in any other country except the US, Israel's economy barely gave way in 2008. The shekel, its currency, is strong. Like other countries, Israel has a worrying income gap between rich and poor, but the fear of economic collapse has disappeared.

Israel has become an important cultural center, disproportionately large for a country whose population is close to that of New York City. When the five finalists for the Man Booker Literary Prize were announced last year, there were two Israelis writing in Hebrew: David Grossman and Amos Oz. Grossman won. Since then S.Y. Agnon received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966, and the Israeli literary scene has punched far beyond its weight.

When the state was founded, Ben-Gurion tried to block the television completely; He thought that this would have a negative impact on Israeli education and culture. He failed in this attempt, but for decades Israel had only one television channel. Today, Americans and Europeans alike are hungry for new episodes of Israeli shows like Fauda, ​​while others (like Homeland and The A Word) have been turned into American and British series.

On the occasion of Independence Day, Israelis are aware and deeply proud of the fact that their country has surpassed the ambitions of the men and women who founded it seven decades ago.

Still some of the initial worries and worries of those early years persist. From a military point of view, the threatening enemy is not the Palestinians (with whom peace is still elusive), but Iran. The Israeli military is bracing itself for a possible Iranian missile or drone attack. International support for Israel remains a problem: in 1948, many American Jews were deeply in conflict with the creation of a Jewish state. Solidarity finally grew – but today the relationship is increasingly strained.

And the Israelis have a clear reminder this week that some of the social problems that have plagued the country for a long time persist. A few days ago, Haaretz, Israel's "Paper of Records," asked its authors which Israeli song they most despise. When they answered that he hates the national anthem, an angry Twitter discussion ensued. Eventually, a woman annoyed that her focus on security was dismissed by the Haaretz editors was annoyed: "It's thanks to my ideology that you can live like a king in this land and write and distribute your absurd newspaper without any obstacles . " Amos Schocken, the editor-in-chief of Haaretz and the son of his former publisher, responded (in a tweet he later deleted): "You insolent woman." My family led Zionism as they climbed trees, Haaretz has been in for 83 years We have done well without your ideology and will continue to do so. "

Seventy years after its founding, Israel's once ruling Labor Party has virtually no political influence. There are many reasons for this, but the reputation of an elite, unassailable clan of European intellectuals comes first. Neither the Haaretz group nor the Israeli non-European majority will change their views on the other. Despite the many questions surrounding the Jewish state in its ninth decade, it seems almost certain that it will not be Ben-Gurion's creation of the Labor Party, but the once-so-marginal and now powerful political law that still holds The young and fascinating nation will rule for the foreseeable future.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editors or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Daniel Gordis to dgordis @ bloomberg.net

Contact the appropriate publisher of this story:
Philip Gray at philipgray @ bloomberg.net


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