Israel's extraordinary, banal normality

Israel has come a long way from being seen only as a struggling, beleagured country - its success allows for complaining about traffic jams and crowded classrooms.

Giulio Meotti

OpEds Traffic (illustrative)
Traffic (illustrative)
צילום: עצמי

“The plague of Tel Aviv? It's traffic”, the Israelis seem to say, paraphrasing the verse in a famous Italian movie “Johnny Stecchino”, in which his “uncle” drives in the streets of Palermo, the Italian southern town famous for its mafia, pointing at the traffic.

The Jewish State just returned to the voting booths for the third time in a year and Benjamin Netanyahu has won. The country that everyone in the region once wanted to eliminate (and many still do), the country without a capital recognized unanimously, the country with porous borders and under special supervision by the media, the courts and Western public opinion, has become so normal that its more serious problems today seem to derive from its extraordinary success (its economy grows at an annual rate of 3.3 percent).

Israel's challenges arise from its vitality. The fertility rate of 3.1 children per woman is the highest among advanced countries, contributing to a population growth of over 200,000 people per year. In the last year there have been 20 percent more immigrants, which adds to unprecedented internal population growth for a developed country. So Israel, more than from borders and from endemic terrorism - problems that exist and will always exist for a Jewish enclave that flourished literally in the heart of the Islamic world - is distressed by its streets, the most congested in the developed world, with many more cars in circulation than in all European countries.

The Israeli classrooms are also the most crowded, five more than the average in the OECD countries. Already today, Israel is the third most densely populated developed country after Netherlands and South Korea, but in 2035 Israel will be number one. The Israeli population is growing so rapidly - 2 percent a year against an average of just 0.5 for the OECD countries - that if the trend does not change by 2065 it will be the most crowded country after Bangladesh.

Fifty years ago, when Israel was still an ultra-inflationary and semi-socialist country, there were 3.3 hospital beds for every thousand inhabitants. Today they are 1.7. Still, it is yesterday's news that the Sheba Medical Center, near Tel Aviv, has been chosen as the ninth best hospital in the world by Newsweek, which draws up the rankings every year.

Two days ago, news came that the Israeli state-funded Migal Galilee Research Institute is already working on a coronavirus vaccine. If we consider the 25 main drugs developed in the last fifteen years, many have been partially produced at Weizmann, a famous Israeli research institute. Probably no other Western research institute achieves the same.  

Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Israel's only enemy with the military capabilities and political will to worry Jerusalem, is imploding because of the coronavirus. While Iranian President Hassan Rohani said the virus is a conspiracy of “our enemies”, a member of the Supreme Leader Council Ali Khamenei died in the hospital, killed by the virus. This is Mohammad Mirmohammadi, the eighth senior official of the regime to fall ill and the third to lose his life (there must already be more than two hundred dead in the country).

“We will know we have become a normal country when Jewish thieves and Jewish prostitutes conduct their business in Hebrew”, David Ben Gurion once said. Without accepting that dubious criterion, it is the extraordinary normality of Israel, not only famous in the world for Jihad, terror and siege, but also from the traffic on the Ayalon highway and its effervescent and very “Italian” democracy.

Call it the ultimate Zionist revolution. And it is spectacular. 




top