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Short history of Israel

15/02/2015

Israel started its existence in 1948 with Jewish population of about 700,000. Today’s population of Israel is about 8 million. This unprecedented increase in population was mainly due to Jewish emigrants. The Jewish immigration was continuous since establishment of Israel, but also characterized in several big waves, that substantially changed the demographics of Israel. The main waves were immediately after the establishment of the state, when hundreds of thousand Jewish survivors of concentration camps entered the new state. This wave was immediately followed by Jews from Arab and Muslim countries, mainly Morocco, Iraq, Yemen and Iran. By the way, the number of Jewish emigrants from the Muslim countries exceeded the number of Palestinian refugees estimated at about 700,000 expelled from Israel in 1948, .
This emigration wave ended in early sixties, bringing Israeli population to about 2 million, out of which about half originated from the Muslim countries. Almost all these emigrants came to Israel as refugees, without personal capital, bringing with them only their cultural heritage, that even if based on long Jewish tradition, was very diversified. A new wave of rather lower emigration wave started again in the early seventies, but mainly due to natural population growth the Israeli population at eve of Soviet Union collapse was about 3,7 million people. The new and probably the last big emigration wave came to Israel with the collapse of USSR and increased Israeli population by 20%.
In-spite of all these above mentioned circumstances, Israel not only successfully absorbed the Jewish emigrants, integrated them socially and economically, but created a relatively well functioning modern democratic state, comparable to any European country. At 2013 the Israeli GDP per capita was above that of France and just under that of GB and Japan. This was achieved without the impact of the newly found gas resources, expecting to add few additional percents to the GDP per capita. This development is comparable only to some Asian Tigers like Taiwan, South Korea etc. It has to be remembered that Israel since its creation had to fight at least 5 major and several minor wars against the neighboring Arab countries.
What i see not less impressive, is that Israel also created an unique cultural and intellectual hub, where many unique high quality things are happening and not only in the high-tech sector. For example less known is the Israeli film production, which in the last years are almost annually represented on the world most important international documentary and feature film festivals and are nominated for first prices.
Yet all these achievements cannot cover the basic fundamental problems which continuously exposes Israel to threat of extinction. The well known is the external threat, that comes from the Arab and Muslim countries, mainly from the Israeli neighborhood (if Iran and Iraq is considered neighbor). The Arab world never excepted Israel as a legitimate entity in the middle east and continued its revanchist policy toward it. If in the near past Israel had to cope with countries of large population and resources, since the Arab revolution it has to cope with even larger uncertainties with the collapse of countries as Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. I don’t mean to go into details in this article about the subject of the Arab world and the Arab Israeli conflict, that is well documented in other places. All i want to add is that the Arab world supported with the lefty European intellectuals, never excepted legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state. Until this problem of legitimacy is not solved there is no solution for the Israeli-Arab conflict. I would add, that if at the first years of Israeli existence, majority of Israeli, who were immigrants and had wider world perspective as to the Jewish state, today, most of the Israeli population is Israeli born and brought up there, and sees itself belonging to the region on the same level as anybody else. Their perception of being and living in Israel is not mixed with confusion. They belong to Israel, this is their home, with their culture and language and anybody who wants to take this from them, they will fight until the last drop of their blood. No one can moralize them that because they are militarily much stronger than their enemies, they have no right to defend themselves with all their military might.
The less known facts about Israel are their social and political structure, that may cause problems on the long run. Out of population of 8 million about 6 millions are Jews, 1.5 Arabs and the rest others. But the 6 million Jews are also divided to subgroups, mainly according to their religious believes. About 50-60% of the Jewish population are secular, like in any other country, about 25% are religious in orthodox way, and the rest have certain positive traditional inclination to religion. The religious groups are subdivided to three communities, the Ashkenazi (European origin) religious orthodox community (about 5 % of the population), the Sephardic (mostly Arab country originated) orthodox community (about 10% of the population) and the modern orthodox community (also about 10% of the population), who are mostly identified with the settlers on the occupied west bank. The remaining 75% of the population is divided between population with conservative-traditional tendencies and the population with liberal tendencies. Politically because the conservatives, whose representative is Mr. Nathaniahu, are closer to the religious parties, he is the one who has more chances to create government, and the liberal fraction with almost 50% of political representation stay mostly in the opposition. It may look perfect to Mr. Nathaniyahu, but he has a problem. Because the Israeli intellectual and economic elites, to whom he naturally and socially belongs, due his family roots (His father was an important historian) are opposing him, his political support originates mainly from the less educated and the more religious parts of the society. So he has to feel very isolated in his political existence.
This social fragmentation to different social groups is not only political but also social. There is almost no interaction between the different religious social groups i mentioned and the secular Jewish population, and even less social interaction between the Jewish and Arab population. They have separated education systems, with different curriculum, live in separated enclaves, and even not always share the same working places. Even if many Israeli Arabs are highly educated, the intermarriages are very rare, practically nonexistent.
As to economic integration the Ashkenazi and Sephardic orthodox population and the Arab population, who are together about 35% of the population, are not fully integrated into the economic activities and also don’t take part in the military service, so important to the Israeli identity. The birth rate of this social group is much higher than the other social groups, so their political influence growth with the years. As the result of it, the secular, mainly liberal population feels its way of life is threatened in the future. This of course creates increasing social tension.
As to your question, to where all this is heading, i would have to say hard to predict. In one hand the today’s events do not give too much reason for hope, and the trend within Israel and out of it is continuous strengthening of the religious irrational, non liberal forces. On the other hand it seems there are things happening within the religious communities as well. In the Islamic world the main stream Muslims start to understand that as contrary to the slogan, Islam is not the solution. As to Israel, with increased confidence in the ultra orthodox Jewish communities, they start to understand, that segregation from the main part of the Israeli society in materially poor life, and trying to make living by milking the Israeli social system by political means has its limits and can create a boomerang effect.
As to the future, there is an old saying the prophecy was given to the fools. So i don’t want to try it.

From → History, Israel, MENUE

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  1. Short history of Israel | EugenR Lowy עוגן רודן

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