Returning Home: Israel Today
The people of Israel, the Jews, should have disappeared thousands of years ago, like all the other now-extinct civilizations that lived in the same era and area. Jews were forced to roam from country to country in search of a home, often at the mercy of the local hosts, who did not share their religious convictions. Yet despite all odds, the Jewish people have survived some of the most trying and difficult circumstances, such as traumatic pogroms, expulsions, inquisitions, and virulent anti-Semitism, and have still maintained faithful to their Torah and traditions.
The pinnacle of the miraculous return of the Jewish people to their ancestral Land was the declaration of independence of the Jewish State in 1948. From that moment, the wheels of Israel’s redemption began to turn. Jews were being gathered together en masse from the four corners of the world, bringing to fruition God’s promise, “I will raise My hand to nations and lift up My ensign to peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their bosoms, and carry your daughters on their backs”(Isa. 49:22).
Starting at a scant population of 806,000 in 1948, Israel had grown tenfold to a whopping 9,200,000 as a result of natural growth and massive Jewish immigration. Tourism flourished, as Israel welcomed 4,120,800 tourists in 2019. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were listed in numerous travel media outlets as being among the best cities to visit. And despite the normal day-to-day stress, Israel takes pride in being a country in which its citizens are happy, ranking for the fifth consecutive year as one of the world’s happiest countries, coming in 11th place, according to the 2018 United Nations report. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, 88.6% of Israelis say they are pleased with their lives. And why shouldn’t they be? Average life expectancy is 80.7 for Israeli men and 84.2 for women. Eighty five percent of adult Israelis feel safe walking alone after dark, and Israel ranks fifth in the world for healthy longevity. Israelis’ hope for the future is also evidenced in the country’s average birth rate of 3.12 children per woman, nearly double the OECD average.
Israeli culture is notably diverse, as it is a melting pot of immigrants from over sixty countries. Israelis place strong emphasis on traditional family life, with a focus on marriage and children. The Israeli family is tight-knit, and children generally live geographically near their parents, remaining connected with them throughout adulthood. Israelis also love to celebrate—there are about 140,000 celebratory events each year, including weddings, births, and bar or bat mitzvahs. These events are often large and elaborate, as all the extended family and a number of friends are invited to join in the celebrations.
Most Israelis take pride that their country is a beacon of unity and coexistence. Israel is one of the few countries in the entire Middle East in which Arab women and all other minorities have the ability to vote for their leaders. Arab parties in the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) won a historic thirteen seats during the 2015 election. Company offices, malls, gyms, supermarkets, and hospitals are populated by Arabs and Jews alike. Arab-Israeli citizens, a majority of whom are Sunni Muslims, make up approximately 20 percent of Israel’s population (approximately 1.8 million people). There are also approximately 175,000 Christian Arabs in Israel and 120,000 Druze Arabs (an ethno-religious group). In Israeli universities, Arab Israeli citizens make up about 17 percent of students, which is close to their proportion of the general population, and 70 percent of the Arab students are women, which signifies an increase in education opportunities for women in these communities.