Now we are sixty
Israel is conducting its Independence Day celebrations this year under a shadow. Although a gag order over the criminal investigation into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is suspected of accepting a bribe during his term as Jerusalem mayor in the 1990s, was partially designed to minimise disruption to the 60thanniversary celebrations, the nation is acutely aware that a police report into the premier is imminent, and that the government is extremely vulnerable as a result. Following the lead of the Israeli press, and acting on our own belief that we must cover Israel honestly — not shying away from discussion of Israel’s problems, as well as its successes — we have devoted part of our front page today, and our second page, to the fallout. And yet, it is important that the impending political scandal does not mar what is, after all, a truly happy occasion. Looking back on the editions of the Jewish Chronicle produced immediately following the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 — reproduced in fascinating detail in the 12-page commemorative supplement that we are delighted to bring JC readers today as our own birthday gift — it is hard not to marvel that Israel survived its first month, let alone 60 years. But not only has it survived, it has thrived. Israel has proved a true refuge to Jews in need, and is today home to almost half the world’s Jewry. In the process, it has created an inclusive, multicultural society; a vibrant economy; a population with unprecedented levels of Jewish knowledge and Jewish practice; and a thriving democracy. Its people have also revived the near-dead Hebrew language and made the desert bloom. And, as our own commemorative 100-page colour magazine, Israel at 60, revealed last month, from the 900 varieties of cheese available, to the over-crammed shelves heaving with Nobel prizes, this is a nation that we are proud to salute at this time. These are incredible achievements, the likes of which many older countries cannot boast, and we unreservedly support their celebration. All this is, of course, not to deny that Israel suffers from some serious challenges, both internal and external. Certainly the Prime Minister’s current predicament is indicative of a troubled political culture — although the fact that Israel’s ministers, premiers and presidents are so rigorously held to account over their actions is also a sign of democratic health. But at 60, Israel is an adult country, and it suffers from adult problems — as do we all. This does not mean we cannot love it. Certainly, the looks forward to covering it, for better and for worse, for the next 60 years and more. Happy birthday, Israel.