By Henry Srebrnik, [Halifax, NS] Chronicle Herald
Seventy years ago the State of Israel came into being. It is a miracle that Israel was born, just three years after the greatest Jewish tragedy, the Holocaust, had ended, and that it has endured in the way that it has.
On April 18th, Israel celebrated its 70th anniversary under the banner “A legacy of innovation.” (The state was declared on May 14, 1948, but the anniversary varies by year in the western calendar because it is based on the Hebrew one.)
It was a near-run thing: In November 1947, one day prior to the expected United Nations vote on partitioning Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, the CIA urged President Harry Truman not to throw his weight behind the idea.
America would have to defend the new Jewish state when it faltered, the CIA’s secret memorandum warned, adding that “the Jews will be able to hold out no longer than two years.”
Today, of course, Israel has the most advanced army in the region. It is also the West’s only reliable ally in the Middle East.
“The people kept faith with the land throughout their dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom,” declared David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, as he read out its declaration of independence in Tel Aviv.
The state was born in war: that very day, Arab armies from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria attacked the fledgling nation. Within Palestine itself, there had already been continuous Arab-Jewish violence once the British government had announced it would terminate its Mandate.
Ten months of fighting ended in an armistice in 1949. More wars would follow: in 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, as well as continuous violence and terrorism within the borders of the state itself.
Yet Israel has become a modern, prosperous nation. The “ingathering of the exiles” is no longer a dream: In 1948, there were some 650,000 Jews in Israel, who represented about five per cent of the world’s Jews.
Today, Israel’s Jewish population has grown ten-fold and stands at about 6.8 million people. Some 43 per cent of the world’s Jews live in Israel; this is now the world’s largest Jewish community.
A visitor to the country would be astounded at its infrastructure. A worldwide center for technology, it has more companies listed on the Nasdaq than any country other than the U.S.
No other post-colonial state has remained a democracy while granting its people a developed-world standard of living.
In the International Monetary Fund’s 2018 forecasts for GDP per capita, Israel, at $40,762, is 23rd out of 193 states -- just behind France and New Zealand, and just ahead of Japan and the United Kingdom.
Speaking at the ceremonies marking the anniversary, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that no one would “extinguish” Israel’s “light.”
“All the ancient peoples who were exiled from their lands vanished and scattered all over the place. Only we, the Jewish people, who were like a leaf blown away in the storm of exile, refused to disappear and remained faithful to Zion,” he said.