Israel is considered a first world nation despite the fact that the modern state of Israel was only born on 14 May, 1948.
Since her birth, Israel has been in eight different wars, the first of which was Israel’s War of Independence. This began less than 24 hours after David Ben Gurion declared Israel a sovereign nation on 14 May, 1948 — the five regular armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq invaded the fledgling Jewish nation with a view to destroying every single Jew. They were unsuccessful. Every attempt since has also been unsuccessful.
The Jewish population at the time of Israel’s independence was approximately 650,000 people. When the War of Independence broke out and Israel emerged the victor, the Jews living in the surrounding Arab nations fled to the new State of Israel because of the violence and persecution directed at them. They left behind homes, businesses and property, arriving in Israel with nothing more than the clothing they were standing in.
Conservative estimates indicate that some 700,000 Jewish refugees — some from Arab nations and some who were Holocaust survivors — poured into the tiny state to find safety and welcome. Some estimates have even placed the number of Jewish refugees as high as one million. What is absolutely remarkable (many would say miraculous) is that the infant nation of Israel of only 650,000 Jewish citizens successfully absorbed 700,000 plus refugees who came without any means of assisting in their own establishment. At the same time, the nation was fighting an unprovoked national war with five hostile Arab neighbour nations.
Today, despite the intense struggles Israel has endured in her brief modern history, she is an advanced, technologically-savvy and adept nation of high achievers and ‘can do’ individuals. Yes, they’re surrounded on every side by hostile enemies. Yet everywhere they look they see the evidence of their history and connection to the land. They know that this is the only place on earth where the Jewish people can be totally and completely free and welcome and safe.
Israelis are very hospitable people and much of Israeli culture, like most of the Middle East, is spent around meal times and fellowship. They are very welcoming and accommodating of people who genuinely care for them and respect their national identity.
The Jewish people themselves however are extremely diverse because they have spent almost all of the last 2000 years in exile. The modern ingathering of the Jewish people has meant that contemporary Jewish society is made up of Jews from all around the world. Jewish citizens come from most European nations, from Russia and many African nations, from America and of course many Muslim Middle Eastern nations. Their dress, language, culture, foods and mannerisms are wide and colourful.
While there is a significant percentage of religious Jews of varying degrees, a very large portion of the Jewish community are secular in their worldview. Their outlook incorporates a very modern lifestyle but they also have high respect for the religious precepts of the nation.
Throughout the year, Jews observe quite a number of Jewish feasts and holidays — many of these festivals are found in the Bible. These include Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Pentecost. There are also other feasts and celebrations that commemorate strategic or catastrophic events in Jewish history such as Holocaust Memorial Day or Purim.
Israel has an established industry in the arts and culture — including theatre and entertainment, cinema, music, dance, literature, visual arts, museums, archaeology, media and sport.
Israel is very much like most modern nations around the world. It has a strong economy and the Israeli people have contributed to the world more than any other nation. Most people are not aware of the extraordinary number of Jewish Nobel Prize winners whose gifts to global society have changed the world. Yet, Israel’s history and her religion are visible no matter where you go within her borders.
Israelis are a vibrant, fascinating, interesting — and yet melancholy — people. No other people group in human history has endured what they have and still remain strong, powerful and uniquely identifiable among the nations of the world.