Now we are sixty

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT&ANALYSIS -

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.

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