ANALYSIS: Israel at 70: A light unto the nations

Israel is not a newborn anymore. Its stunning success is backed by hard facts, but challenges lay ahead.

Yochanan Visser ,

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Israeli flag
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Yochanan Visser is an independent journalist/analyst who worked for many years as Middle East correspondent for Western in Arizona and was a frequent publicist for the main Dutch paper De Volkskrant. He authored a book in the Dutch language about the cognitive war against Israel and now lives in Gush Etzion. He writes a twice weekly analysis of current issues for Arutz Sheva.

After 70 years it is no exaggeration to say Israel is a miracle and the success story of the last century, despite having gone through no less than 15 wars and major counter terror operations since the founding of the state in 1948.

The international media tend to focus on these wars and conflicts only and under-report the unique achievements of the Jewish state nationally and internationally.

Many of these achievements are in the areas of technological and medical innovations which not only benefit the Israeli people but contribute to the development of the world as a whole, and improve the quality of life of hundreds of millions of people.

Dr. Adam Reuter, chairman of the Israeli company Financial Immunities, and Noga Kainan, chair of the Israeli Executive Leaders Forum, just published a book which details many of Israel’s successes over the past thirty years.

The book, Israel- Island of Success is now available on and describes the stunning developments in the Jewish state since 1987.

Take for example economic growth in Israel: It is the second highest in OECD countries and almost double the average of the other 34 OECD countries. The Israeli economy grew at a cumulative rate of 65 percent since the beginning of the twentieth century.

Then there is the gross domestic product (GDP): It grew by a whopping 923 percent since 1987, while GDP per capita grew 413 percent over the same period.

Government debt to GDP ratio contracted by 62 percent, from 155% in 1987 to 59 % in 2017, making Israel one of only two developed countries in the world where debt-to-GDP ratio is shrinking.

Foreign currency reserves in Israel grew by no less than 2700 percent, from only $4 billion in 1987 to $112 billion in 2017.

Exports from Israel grew by 920 percent, from $10 billion in 1987 to $102 billion in 2017, Reuter and Kainan write in their book that this occurred while defense expenditure as a percentage of the GDP fell by 74 percent (17 % in 1987 versus 4.5 % in 2017).

Annual inflation shows a similar trend. In 1987 inflation in Israel reached 16 percent, while today the annual inflation stands at only 0.30 percent.

Compared with other OECD countries Israel is a success, write Reuter and Kainan. They contribute this success to four important factors.

  • The Israelis are a global entrepreneurial people with a very high level in science and technology and the Israeli population is very young compared with other OECD countries.
  • Three revolutions, which contribute to Israel’s stunning success, according to the authors of Israel- Island of Success .

The country’s severe water problem is slowly disappearing while energy is getting cheaper in Israel as a result of the exploitation of the gas fields in Israel’s territorial waters.

At the same time, Israel’s transportation infrastructure is rapidly growing, as is visible in almost all parts of the country.

There’s more.

An energy revolution is taking place in Israel. the country is expected to reach energy independence as early as 2020. Today sixty-six percent of Israel’s electricity production already comes from its own sources (90% gas and 10% solar energy).

Israel’s health system is one of the best in the world with the World Health Index ranking the country in ninth place. A large majority of Israelis, including Arab and other minorities, are very satisfied with health services in the country. Eighty-two percent of the Israelis are satisfied with the medical care and 94% with their family physician.

The so-called brain drain doesn’t exist according to Reuter and Kainan, who wrote that in the period 1980 -2010 there was a net brain-gain of 235,000 academics - and this trend continues.

All this and the sense that living in Israel is purposeful explains why the world happiness index ranks the country no. 11, before richer and quieter countries such as Germany (15), Belgium (16), Luxembourg (17) and the United States (18).

Israeli Jews have a deep connection to their ancestral homeland and almost all of them feel they are part of something much bigger than themselves, while the role of Jewish tradition is playing a much bigger role in the lives of Israeli Jews than many in the country think.

You hardly will find a house in Israel without a mezuzah on the frame of the entrance door, somebody pointed out to me this week.

The Passover eve Seder, the annual commemoration of the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt some 3,800 years ago, was attended by more than 90% of Israeli Jews this year and 94% of them say they keep Jewish tradition in some way, according to a 2009 survey.

Israel is not a ‘new-born’ anymore.

The 70-year old state attained what the Mishna, the Oral Torah, calls saiva - a word denoting achieving serniority and wisdom, but derived from the word savai’ah according to the Jewish sage Maharal in his commentary on Pirkei Avot 5:21.

Savai’ah means satisfied and the letters of the word are rooted in the word “shivim” which means seventy.

At 70 Israel has reason to be satisfied. It is a regional superpower, an economic powerhouse and is slowly becoming a light unto the nations, to cite the words of the prophet Isaiah.

However, as Reuter and Kainan point out, the country still faces significant challenges such as low median wages, high real estate prices, an aggressive public discourse and a surplus of bureaucracy and regulations.

If Israel succeeds in tackling these and other significant social challenges, it will then be able to go on to “bring salvation to the end of the earth.”