With each passing day, the bad news seems to mount, pounding away at our senses and giving us no rest. A passenger bus is sprayed with gunfire in Jerusalem, roadblocks go up in the Sharon and government ministers are evacuated from their homes for fear of being assassinated by terrorists. Various labor unions are on strike (though no one can figure out why), unemployment is soaring, taxes are high and my hairline continues to recede.

In states across America, fluoride is added to the water system to ensure a higher degree of dental health. Perhaps the time has come for Israel to dump some Prozac into the Kinneret, if only to safeguard our mental well-being.

Yet, as bad as things might be, and they most certainly are, this country still has a lot going for it. That is something that we do not always appreciate as much, or as frequently, as we should. So, in the hopes of lifting your spirits (at least until the next news broadcast, that is), here are five good reasons for rejoicing:

1) Israel is full of heroes ? We so easily forget it, but the fact is that every morning thousands of young men and women across the country don uniforms and bravely go out to defend the Jewish people. Some stand guard at our malls and our bus stations, while others slip behind enemy lines to capture wanted terrorists. Every day of the week, they risk their lives, young and precious lives that have yet to enjoy all that the world has to offer. Despite the dangers, there have been no mass desertions, no hordes of young people taking to the streets and refusing to serve their country. The much-maligned younger generation has shown itself ready and willing to answer the call of duty. That is something that should give us all reason to hope for the future.

2) Aliyah proceeds apace ? Thousands of new immigrants are still arriving in Israel, from places as diverse as Australia, France, South Africa, the former Soviet Union and the United States. It is forecast that by the end of the year, a total of 45,000 new immigrants will have arrived in Israel in 2001 - an average of over 120 newcomers per day. While these numbers may be lower than those of a decade ago, they nevertheless demonstrate that Israel remains an appealing place to live, one that attracts Jews from all over the world. The ingathering of the exiles continues.

3) The people are largely united ? The ongoing Palestinian terror campaign of the past year has caused an immense amount of pain and bloodshed, with the toll in human lives devastatingly high. Yet it has also united the people for the first time in a decade, creating a solid consensus regarding the failure of Oslo and the need for Israel to defend itself. Our strength as a people has always been rooted in our ability to pull together in times of crisis. Though difficult days may still lie ahead, we can at least take comfort in the knowledge that whatever challenges we might face, we will do so united and determined to survive.

4) Economic prosperity ? Though the current recession is far from over, Israel remains an economically vibrant and promising place. Per capita GDP is higher than that of countries such as Spain, Portugal and New Zealand and Israel continues to be a world leader in areas such as biotechnology and telecommunications. Despite a dearth of natural resources, a heavy defense burden and persistent political instability, Israel has still managed to economically outstrip all of its Arab neighbors. Not bad for a country that was busy draining swamps only a few short decades ago.

5) Jewish life is thriving ? Just five decades after the Holocaust, our nation?s customs and traditions are flourishing once again. Tens of thousands of young Jews are studying the ancient texts of our people, delving into the splendor of our heritage. Theaters, concerts and museums provide a rich and rewarding cultural life, brimming with creativity and inventiveness. Jews are again speaking Hebrew, the revival of which is symbolic of our own rebirth as a sovereign nation.

Yes, the past year has given us plenty of cause for despair, leading some to suggest that our new national motto should be ?Am Yisrael Cry?. However, such an approach is not only shortsighted ? it is counterproductive, too. So don?t let the news get you down more than necessary, because we have plenty to be grateful for. After all, despite our enemies? best efforts, we are still here, able to declare: ?Am Yisrael Chai? ? the nation of Israel lives.


Originally published in the Jerusalem Post. Posted with permission of the author.

The writer served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister?s Office from 1996 to 1999.