Last month we celebrated Israel’s 64th birthday. Sixty-four is not a round number, but it’s still a milestone birthday, thanks to the Beatles who famously asked, “Will you still need me / Will you still feed me / When I’m 64?”
Well, maybe we don’t need to feed Israel any more. Not literally. Israel is an incredibly productive member of the world community.
Israel has less than 1/1,000th of the world’s population, yet it has developed key technology for cell phones, Windows XT and XP, the Pentium MMX chip, Pentium and Centrino chips, instant messaging, and voicemail technology. Basically, without Israeli technology, our teenagers wouldn’t know what to do with themselves.
Israel has produced more scientific papers per capita than any other nation and created the largest number of startups in the world. Since 1948, Israelis have won 10 Nobel prizes. That’s more Nobel prizes per capita in that time period than any other country.
Israel was the first nation in the world to adopt an international standard that certifies diamonds as “conflict free.” It is the only country in the world to have entered the 21st century with a net gain in its number of trees, even though the region is mainly desert. Relative to its population, Israel is the largest immigrant-absorbing nation on earth. Immigrants flock to Israel in search of democracy, religious freedom, and economic opportunity.
When the United States embassy in Kenya was bombed in 1998, Israeli rescue teams were on the scene within a day — and saved three victims from the rubble. When the earthquake hit Haiti, Israel set up the most advanced field hospital on the ground — half a world away. Israel sends emergency teams all around the world, including last year to Japan in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami.
Israeli scientists developed the first fully computerized, no-radiation, diagnostic instrumentation for breast cancer and the first ingestible video camera, so small it fits inside a pill so it can be swallowed to provide imaging of cancers and digestive disorders. Israeli researchers developed a device that directly helps the heart pump blood and are testing a vaccine that, if successful, could be applied to 90 percent of all known cancers.
Obviously, judging by all that Israel has contributed, it is clear that the world does need Israel. But we, as Jews, have a special need for Israel.
Israel has completely transformed what it means to be a Jew. For millennia, we were guests in other people’s countries — expelled or oppressed at the whim of the government. Because of Israel, Jews have a national identity.
Jews have always been creative and have always contributed to the societies where they lived. But planted in Israel, Jews have blossomed, Jews have flourished. Jews have created a dynamic, resilient country in Israel, and Israel has created a dynamic, resilient Jewish character in us, all of us. Even if we don’t live in Israel, Israel has changed us. Israel has changed what it means to be a Jew and changed it for the better.
So yes, we still need Israel at 64. And Israel needs us too. You can help by joining the Community Relations Committee of MetroWest and Central NJ and getting involved in our work. We have so many things going on. For example, this evening, May 10, at 7:30 p.m. we’re cosponsoring the New Jersey premiere of Unmasked Judeophobia: The Threat to Civilization, a documentary examining the historic and political forces driving the hatred of Jews in the 21st century, at the Digiplex Rialto Theater in Westfield.
And next time your kids ignore you when you talk to them because their faces are buried in their phones, you can blame Israel — and then be glad we have the country. (BTW, you’re sending those kids to the advocacy training sessions we run, right?)