President Isaac Herzog and 1,400 other dignitaries from Israel, Switzerland and many other countries, recently commemorated in Basel the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress, which was organized by Theodor Herzl in the same city in August 1897.
Since Israelis, diaspora Jews and millions of other supporters will celebrate 75 years of independence in May 2023, a recounting of the Jewish state's spectacular successes is timely.
Israel's first miracle is robust population growth. From 806,000 citizens in 1948, when independence was declared, the country's population has increased to 9,506,000 in 2022, or by nearly 11 times.
In 2020 by religion, 7,036,000, or 74%, of Israelis are Jewish; 1,711,000, or 18%, are Muslims; and 190,000 each, or 2%, are either Christians or Druze.
In 1948, Israelis were 7% of a global Jewish population of 12 million, but they currently represent 44% of 16 million Jews.
Pew Research reports that there were approximately 7.5 million Jewish Americans in 2020, or 47% of the world total.
A major reason for Israel's demographic miracles has been the massive waves of Jewish immigrants from Eastern European, Middle Eastern and North African countries.
During the last three-quarters of a century, the nations of origin of the largest number of immigrants to Israel are Russia/Ukraine, 1,747,000; Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, 365,000; Romania, 277,000; Poland, 174,000; and Iraq, 131,000.
The countries of the former Soviet Union experienced a 89% decline in their Jewish citizens, from "2,168,000 in 1970 to 1,480,000 in 1989, and to 248,000 by the beginning of 2019," according to a study by an Israeli scholar.
Moreover, a British academic recently estimated that Russia's Jewish population has further decreased this year, from 165,000 to 144,000, as a result of Vladimir Putin's brutal, unprovoked war against Ukraine.
After the former Soviet bloc nations, Israel's largest source of immigrants was the exodus of 1 million persecuted Jews from Muslim countries in North Africa and Middle East, after Israel was established in 1948. Many of these nations won independence in the two decades after World War II ended in 1945.
The Jewish population of nine Arab countries plunged more than 99%: from 851,000 in 1948, to 70,000 in 1968, and to 3,000 in 2018. The five largest emigrations are from Morocco, 263,000; Algeria, 139,000; Iraq, 135,000; Tunisia, 104,000; and Egypt, 75,000.
The other Arab countries whose entire Jewish populations fled to Israel — and to France, America, United Kingdom and other Western countries — are Syria, Lebanon, Libya, and Yemen.
Another major factor for Israel's remarkable demographic explosion is a uniquely high birthrate. The World Bank documents that in 2020 Israel's birthrate of 2.9 children per woman was the highest among advanced Western democracies.
France's was 1.8 births per woman; United Kingdom and United States, 1.6 each; Germany, 1.5; Canada, 1.4; Japan, 1.3; and Italy, 1.2.
Israel's third incredible miracle is its development into a leading military power, which began during World War II, when 30,000 Jewish Palestinians fought with the British Commonwealth's armed forces in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, North Africa, Greece and Italy.
Prominent Israel military and political leaders, who were veterans of the Allied armed forces in World War II, include Moshe Dayan, Yigal Allon, Ezer Weizman, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, Abba Eban, Moshe Arens, and Chaim Herzog (the father of current Israeli President Isaac Herzog).
At least 1.5 million Jews fought in the Allied armed forces and underground guerrilla movements during the most destructive war in history, including 550,000 in the American armed forces and 500,000 in the Soviet Union's.
Moreover, thousands of Jewish World War II veterans, and some who weren't, from 42 countries, rushed to Israel in 1948 to fight in the War of Independence. They played a critical role — in the air force, navy, army, and medical corps — in the victory over the invading armies of Egypt, Transjordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
A fourth Israeli miracle is that its citizens have a life expectancy, at 83 years, that is among the highest in the world. Japan's life expectancy is 85; France, 82; Germany, 81; United Kingdom, 81; United States, 77; and Russia, 71.
Fifth, Israel's per capita Gross National Income, at $50,000 is also among the world's highest. America's is $70,000; Germany, $51,000; U.K., $45,000; France, $44,000; and Italy, $36,000.
During the last four decades, Israel has progressively abandoned socialism and heavy-handed government control of the economy. The Jewish state has passionately embraced capitalism, free markets and entrepreneurship.
Scientific, medical and agricultural advances in the Yishuv, the pre-state Jewish community in Palestine, include the Jewish National Fund, founded in 1901, which has revivified the land of Israel by draining malarial swamps, planting forests, and building reservoirs, aqueducts and other essential infrastructure.
Since 1912, Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, has provided modern medical care to all citizens of the Yishuv and Israel, and to citizens of neighboring Arab countries.
Undoubtedly, for more than a century, Palestinian Jews and then Israelis, and Jews in the diaspora, have been "a light unto the nations," to quote Isaiah.
Mark Schulte is a retired New York City schoolteacher and mathematician who has written extensively about science and the history of science. Read Mark Schulte's Reports — More Here.
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