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  • Writer's pictureGedaliah Borvick

The Source of Israel’s Happiness

Happiness in Netanya (netanya.muni.il)

Israel’s consistently high rankings in the Happiness Index is fascinating. Fittingly, streets across the country have names that reflect this theme. For example, Netanya has a neighborhood filled with many joyful street names, including Ha’Gila, Ha’Rina, Ha’Ditsa, Ha’Chedva, and Tsahala.


The fact that Israel is ranked the fifth happiest country in this most challenging year of 2024 is astonishing. How can a country that has lived in a constant state of war since its inception, and is currently at war with Iran and its proxy of terror, all the while being vilified and boycotted globally, be so happy?


One explanation for the source of Israel’s happiness is that, while most countries’ populations are declining, our population is expanding dramatically and will double within the next 20 to 30 years. This growth elicits a national feeling of continuity and stability.


An inspiring answer is that Israel’s definition of happiness is deeply rooted in the Prophet Isaiah’s vision of the Jewish people’s role as an “ohr lagoyim,” a light unto the nations. Israel leads the world, on a per capita basis, in scientific publications, museums, and new book publishing, and boasts an inordinate number of Nobel Prize winners. Living a meaningful, value-driven existence can fill one with gratification.


A practical answer focuses on Israel’s economic success, spurred by its thriving high-tech industry and many other important fields. This sense of financial well-being helps create a national culture of contentment and confidence.


A spiritual explanation touches upon the religious nature of the Jewish nation. Less than a third of the Jewish population consider themselves “religious,” yet two-thirds of this population consider themselves religiously connected. This appreciation of a Higher Being endows people with a sense of purpose and meaning.


An uplifting answer focuses on the unprecedented amount of Torah being learned and the religious growth occurring here. The sheer number of people learning Torah is astounding, which is a source of pride not only to religious people, but also to many secular Israelis, who derive satisfaction knowing that their grandparents’ traditions and values are enduring.


A heartening explanation for the country’s high morale is that its younger generation is bravely fighting the current war with resilience and conviction. As VC Michael Eisenberg inspiringly wrote: “Our kids taught us to take the fight to the enemies of humanity, to stand tall, to believe, to know that the future will be better in their hands.”


An intriguing reason was proposed by my dear friend Dr. Joshua Lipsitz, a trailblazing professor of Psychology at Ben Gurion University, who in his relatively short life achieved so much. He maintained that most Israelis are more interconnected – they know each other and are concerned about each other’s welfare – than citizens of other countries. Consequently, the global crisis of loneliness and isolation is less common in Israel. Although one may sometimes prefer to be left alone than to answer to multiple meddling Yiddishe Mamas, the feeling of being connected to others is a source of serenity.


One final and powerful reason focuses on many Jews’ attachment to the physical land of Israel. Living in the land of our patriarchs and matriarchs fosters a reassuring sense of being a link in the long chain of Jewish history. Furthermore, being blessed with our own country allows us to defend Jewish lives, in contrast to the thousands of years when we had no homeland to escape to nor army to protect us.


The happiness that pervades Israel is not borne of naiveté nor established in denial of the formidable challenges that confront our nation. Rather, it is based on an understanding that life in Israel, despite its hardships, is enriched with meaning and a sense of purpose and destiny.


May our Seder prayer "Next year in Jerusalem" herald the Jewish nation’s long-awaited redemption.

 

Gedaliah Borvick is the founder of My Israel Home (www.myisraelhome.com), a real estate agency focused on helping people from abroad buy and sell homes in Israel. To sign up for his monthly market updates, contact him at gborvick@gmail.com

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