JERUSALEM – Israel is one of the biggest success stories of modern times. A nation was reborn out of Holocaust survivors and uprooted Jewish communities who, mostly through the quality of their human capital, built a booming economy, created one of the world’s most innovative agricultures, and revived a dead language. They also sustained, against all odds, a democracy that, however imperfect and dysfunctional, is nonetheless amazingly vibrant.
And yet, at its 60th anniversary, Israel stands at a crossroads. Indeed, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has warned of “the end of the Jewish state” if the country remains bogged down in the occupied territories and a Palestinian state is not established.
Israel’s internal challenges are no less demanding. The relatively homogeneous society envisaged by its founders has fragmented into a tense multi-ethnic tapestry comprising secular Jews, an alienated Arab minority, a prolific ultra-orthodox community living on state allowances, religious nationalists bent on a Messianic brand of Zionism, immigrants from the former Soviet Union, marginalized Ethiopians, and Oriental Jews still struggling to join the middle class.
Moreover, Israel has failed to redress a dangerous imbalance: however creative its economy may be, the burden of military expenditure is undermining its investment in education and scientific research.