By way of very brief historical review: The lands today known as Israel and the Palestinian Territories formed part of the Ottoman empire which collapsed during the course of World War One. Following the War, a British mandate was established, during which time both Jewish and Arab nationalist movements continued to develop. In 1947, following World War Two, the United Nations voted in favour of partitioning the land thereby creating two homelands, one for the Palestinians and one for the Jews. The partition plan was accepted by the Jews but rejected by the Arabs and civil war broke out, followed by the first Arab Israeli war in 1948. The fledgling State of Israel and the surrounding Arab nations also fought major wars in 1967 and 1973. In 1979 Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty, followed by Israel and Jordan in 1994. As of today, Israel has never had normal diplomatic or economic relations with Lebanon or Syria, both of whom it shares a border with, or with the majority of other Arab or Islamic nations. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict also continues with a sharing of civil and military control through various parts of the West Bank, and Hamas, an organisation recognised by the US and the EU as an Islamic terrorist organisation, in control of Gaza.
In addition to these substantial challenges, the early State of Israel faced the absorption of millions of immigrants from around the world, most of whom were Jewish but who arrived from communities with different traditions, languages and levels of education and economic development. The country also had to engage with all the other aspects of nation building – securing infrastructure, economic development, developing health and education systems, political and cultural institutions.
All of this sounds pretty gritty. But if you ask Israelis, this gives them all the more reason to celebrate 70 years of Independence. Looked at through the wide lens, Israel’s achievements are actually pretty remarkable. Here are our top 7 reasons to celebrate:
- Israel exists! As our briefest of histories reveals, the existence of the State of Israel was challenged from its inception. Despite its modest beginnings, the Israel Defense Forces are today recognised as one of the most capable armed forces in the world, and Israelis today feel safe in their home. On tour in Israel throughout the country you can learn about the history of the IDF and Israeli – Arab relations. If you are particularly interested in geo-political tours you can find more information here.
- Israel is a functioning democracy. Many new nations have struggled to create and sustain functioning democracies, and in the Middle East democracy is the exception not the rule. Israel is a parliamentary democracy with voting on a proportional representation model. The President acts as figure head, the judiciary are independent, and the media is free. One of the visits on an Israel tour which helps bring this point home is visiting the Tel Aviv Museum of Art – Israel’s national art museum – where the permanent collection includes outstanding pieces of Palestinian political protest art.
- Israeli tech: Israel’s achievements in the areas of technology and science are extraordinary. Young Israelis are obsessed with what they can achieve in tech and Israel has more start-ups per head, and more VC dollars per head, than anywhere else in the world. Israeli tech is behind the mobile phone chip, the USB stick, your Waze navigator, your Checkpoint security system, and the cherry tomatoes in your salad. Ask us about our start-up nation tours!
- Israel is fun: Perhaps in part because this is a State which is young and cannot take its existence for granted, Israelis know how to have fun. They don’t put off having fun today in favour of tomorrow. Tel Aviv in particular is famous for its beach culture, bar and restaurant scene and wild nightlife.
- Israel’s preservation of nature & history: Israeli National Parks and UNESCO world heritage sites are beautifully maintained helping us engage with the country’s amazing natural and historic heritage from the green North of the country to the deserts of the South. The country also has a walking trail which runs the entire length of the territory, through forests, fields, cities, beaches and desert. All of this – together with the unrivaled standard of tour guides – makes Israel an outstanding place to visit and explore.
- Israeli food: It is hard to overstate the yumminess of Israeli food. If you haven’t been here to try it, there is really no fix other than to come and eat.
- Israelis are happy: In 2017 Israelis were ranked the 11th happiest nation in the world, a spot it has held for four years. That has to be worth celebrating!
To mark the 70th anniversary, Israelis will indeed be celebrating in style. The big birthday will be marked with huge beach parties along the coast and folk dancing, fire works and light shows, throughout the country. We hope you will join us here for the very big party!!!!
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