Long range challenges for Israel
In this article I'll discuss issues on the national agenda. I'll point out that the national challenges are now being accomplished and that new challenges will have to be formulated to maintain the vigorous and fresh spirit of Israel.
This period of history is one in which Israel faces a drastic change in its national agenda. After Israel's funding at 1948, the national challenges were:
- Ensure the survival of Israel in face of threats from its neighbors.
- Absorb and settle the immigrants who arrived between 1948-1952.
- Achieve economical independence.
- Attain economical prosperity.
Today, Israel's survival is almost certain thanks to its army, the vague threat of nuclear weapons and the peace process.
The 1948-1952 immigrants were absorbed and while they and their descendants may not enjoy exactly the same standard of living as the old timers, the differences are not large enough to cause significant difference in the opportunities available to each Israeli resident.
Thirdly, I suspect that Israel has essentially achieved economical independence during the last few years. In other words, if a policy of making imports and exports equal to each other were adopted, the Israeli economics would have been able to adjust quickly to those conditions. The present status of imports being larger than exports and debt to foreign countries has the following advantages:
- There is net flow of capital into Israel.
- Countries and banks, to whom Israel owes money, have it as their best interest to help insure Israel's survival, where and whenever they have the power to exert their influence one way or other.
The economic prosperity state was achieved at the beginning of the 1990's, when the average income crossed the $10 000/year mark, which is the usual definition of developed economy.
Thus, the national challenges, which were important before the 1990's, are losing their relevance and will not be as relevant to new generations of Israelis as they were to the Founding Fathers.
The new generations will need new challenges. I am proposing the following challenges for the next 30 years:
In cooperation with the neighboring countries, solve the water shortage problem of the Mideast. This challenge is relatively short range in that it should be accomplished in 5-10 years.
Complete the process of absorption by absorbing the new wave of immigrants from the former USSR; build whatever infrastructure needed to allow Israel to house comfortably and support a population of 15 to 20 million people (the entire Jewish people). This will ensure that every Jew in the world will have an home and shelter available to him should he have the need to flee his native country due to antisemitism.
Build a chain of volunteer organizations, which will reach everyone in the less advantaged parts of the society, facilitate their empowerment and ensure that their present conditions won't prevent them from achieving economic prosperity or whatever non-economic goals of life they may be having.
Note 1: the goal here is NOT to have equality in the society. Every individual has his own priorities, and not everyone will want to work hard at achieving lots of material possessions and high standard of living. But the conditions should be such that everyone will be able to achieve whatever he wants from life.
Note 2: private volunteer organizations are assumed to be more effective and efficient at helping people than government-sponsored welfare programs.
Manned exploration and settlement of the High Frontier - meaning large scale space program. This is the natural next stage in evolution of Homo Sapiens. There is no good reason that Israel refrain from taking part in this adventure.
The above challenges are qualitative ones. Other available challenges are "quantitative" in character - higher per capita income, higher levels of education, progress in scientific research, etc.
There are few attitudes and assumptions, which I'd like to question now.
"Every Jew should immigrate to Israel". This belief was good for its days, when Israel was small and weak and needed immigrants to get stronger.
Now there are few problems:
Israel needs to send some of its citizens abroad in order to serve as ambassadors, consuls, managers of overseas branches of Israeli companies, etc.
Letting all Jews in the world live in Israel is akin to putting all eggs in one basket. This could cause the entire Jewish people to be wiped out should any disaster (natural or man-made) strike Israel.
Settling space involves emigration of people from their home countries.
Instead of the above attitude, I'd suggest the one which grants every Jew in the world right to have a shelter in Israel, to which he may at his option escape from antisemitism. Israel, on the other hand, would be prepared to enable all Jews in the world to exercise this right. This does not rule out the possibility that some people will come to Israel, stay for few years and leave it for space (or another country) when conditions improve.
The second attitude which I'd like to question is the one which considers the Jewish people to be the Chosen Ones. It is my belief that in the future world, there is no place for any group of people to assert that they are the Chosen Ones and that their religion is The True Way. While torah may flow out of Zion to the world, we must recognize and accept the fact that wisdom can and will flow out also from other parts of the world.
Failure to adopt this change in attitude may lead to bad will and problems in relationships with other people.
In this article, I discussed some subjects, which were taken for granted during the first 45 years of existence of Israel. Nowadays, circumstances have changed drastically and those subjects may no longer be relevant in the new circumstances.