JERUSALEM, Israel – For the fifth consecutive year, Israel has been rated the 11th happiest country on earth, according to the annual World Happiness Report, published in May.
That might seem a little strange given the challenges on the northern and southern borders and the seemingly endless Israel bashing at the United Nations, European Union, Arab League, and South Africa, among others, whose views get plenty of coverage in the mainstream media.
But the facts on the ground belie the headlines.
Aliyah from France, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
Not only does the Israeli government continue to welcome planeloads of new immigrants, a recent poll reported by Jerusalem Post diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon Thursday shows the lowest rate of Israeli emigration in 28 years. The study shows the number of Israelis leaving the country is steadily decreasing.
Year after year, thousands of new immigrants work their way through the absorption process – learning the language, exploring the country, registering kids for school, trying out supermarkets and malls till they find the best fit for them. In other words, their success at starting new lives in Israel negates the bleak picture painted by the media. There are some, however, who continue to rely on the media, like former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
Ehud Barak, Photo, Facebook
Keinon quotes Barak in an interview on Israeli radio Tuesday saying his personal life is "excellent," but the nation's, in his view, is "horrible."
"Look around. You don't read newspapers? You don't see?" Barak responded, according to the report.
One wonders to what extent Barak, who has the dubious distinction of serving the shortest term as premier (1999 to 2001), allows the media to shape his thinking.
While most Israelis are far from naïve about the challenges life poses, it's apparently not enough to convince them to move somewhere else. Not only that, they're happy, for the most part, with their lives. Even residents of Gaza-perimeter communities, who have lived for more than a decade within rocket range of an Islamic terror group, continue living their lives.
Grocery shopping in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
The security challenges convinced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his colleagues to formulate a plan to increase funding for the Israel Defense Forces, Mossad (secret service) and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency or ISA).
Morning traffic in Jerusalem, Photo, CBN News, Tzippe Barrow
Netanyahu introduced the 10-year-plan, entitled "2030 Security Concept," to cabinet ministers on Wednesday. It's taken two years to prepare.
Israel, he told them, must be ready to handle continuing security threats over the coming decade. That reality requires increased budgets, properly managed.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and Security Cabinet briefed by Home Front Command, Photo, GPO, Kobi Gideon
"Due to our small area, the population concentration and the numerous threats around us, Israel will always have security needs that are much greater than any other state of similar size. Today the Israeli economy is strong enough to allow for this supplement," Netanyahu said. "The combination of our security and economic strengths will increase Israel's status as an asset in the eyes of other countries and thereby increase our diplomatic strength."
It seems the challenges facing Israel are neither deterring immigration or persuading those who live here to leave. Many understand they are part of God's well-documented plan for His covenant land and people.
"I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them," says the Lord your God. (Amos 9:14-15)