Let’s start this year’s blogs with a toast to Israel for 2016: that great start-up nation in every sense of the phrase.
The nation that recreated itself out of the ashes of a failed European dream. The nation that somehow, miraculously, melded an impossibly heterogeneous, ragtag, angry, frightened, despairing, polyglot flood of refugees and turn them into a vibrant, 21st century, democratic state able and willing to compete on the world stage – and, on the way, to overcome obstacles both internal and external, material and human that singly would have sunk most similar enterprises but, taken in combination, represents the most heroic victory of any nation over circumstance and personal limitation I can think of.
The nation that took every challenge and stood it on its head to become one of the world leaders in enterprise and innovation, mass literacy and cultural activity, employment, health indices, efficient water usage, human rights under the most testing of conditions; even, believe it or not, safe motoring. And, let us not forget, that irresistibly charming chutzpah without which I have no doubt Israel would have been trodden into the sand.
Oh yes, I can hear critics say, but you haven’t factored in the immense aid and support from the world’s superpower. You haven’t factored in the support of the Jewish Diaspora, financial and human. You have forgotten the role of Christian Zionists and other well-wishers and allies in providing morale and more tangible forms of assistance to Israel in its many hours of need.
No, I haven’t forgotten any of that. Nor have I forgotten the moral and strategic missteps made by Israel and Israelis and the complex challenges it still faces within and outside its borders and the fact that the story is yet in progress with the end nowhere in sight. But, taking all that and more into account I am proud to be part of the most heroic project undertaken by any people, anywhere.
And if in my writings I should find occasion to criticise Israel – as I surely will – let my readers be aware of the foundations from which I make such critical comments. And as for those Jews who see Israel as a moral burden, as a constraint on their own relationships with their fellow citizens, as a source of angst or even shame, you have my condolences and may you make a speedy recovery and join the party.
I hope this will be the start of many conversations between me and the readers of this blog and each other for the next 12 months.