Who Wouldn’t Want to Live Here?

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Dateline Jerusalem — I’m back!  After several weeks of the flu and various other ailments, mourning the death of my mother, z”l, and having no energy to think let alone research and write, what better time to get back to writing about Israel than now.  I have often been asked about why I continue to live in Israel. Perhaps the fact that Israel was recently ranked the third best country to raise a family by InterNations Family Life Index is just one of the many reasons why life here is so wonderful.  By the way, the U.S. came in No. 32 out of the 45 countries in the survey.  Sweden was first, Czech Republic second, and Brazil last.  In the annual World Happiness Report, Israel ranked 11th out of 156 countries, again doing better than the U.S., Great Britain and France.

I remember visiting Israel for the first time in 1979, before I had my own children, and being amazed at how many parents allowed their children to roam the streets and go unsupervised to the local parks. Even today, almost 40 years later, that seems to be the way of life in Israel.  Having been a cop and then an attorney in the U.S., I was familiar with crime and crime statistics.  Therefore, I never let my small children out of my sight in the U.S. because there were too many child abductions, molestations, and crimes against children.  But in Israel, the children seem to be happy and carefree, playing on their own without their parents’ constant supervision.  Although there may be occasional terrorism, Israel tends to be relatively crime-free compared to other places in the world. Perhaps that is why parents here tend to be more relaxed. That is not to say that Israel is without crime, but in general, it is a pretty safe place to raise children.

Safety for Women

Children aren’t the only ones who feel safe on Israeli streets.  Women do, too.   I have no qualms about being out after midnight in my city.  And I do not live in a small town.  It is the 14th largest city in Israel.  I feel safer in Israel than I do in the States.  There are rapes and sexual assaults, but nothing compared to that in the States and other countries.  According to police statistics, many cases of rape are committed by illegal African immigrants and West Bank Palestinians who reside in Israel illegally.  However, because of cultural differences, these rapes and sexual assaults are not out of the ordinary for them.  For example, Israeli soldiers were blamed for discrimination because they did NOT rape Palestinian women!  When I was in the French island of Martinique, a judge there told me that incest is a major crime there, and that it is hard to combat because it is so part of the native culture.  Seems like that may be true for some of these illegal immigrants to Israel.

In Greater Peril

Yet Israel has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.  In comparison with the U.S., for every 100,000 people, the U.S. is at least twice as dangerous as Israel with respect to homicides.   In Israel the homicide rate is about 2.4 killed per 100,000 people per year.  Most are domestic violence including honor killing in Muslim families, politically motivated violence such as terrorist acts by Arabs, and Mafia-related violence by Jewish, Arab and Russian mafias that raise the murder rate.

Crimes such as burglaries, robberies, car theft, and street crimes do exist.  However, there are 300 times more robberies in the States than in Israel.  One never hears of carjackings or home-invasion robberies. Stolen cars are big business because they are sold in the black market or taken apart in chop shops, mostly in Arab areas.  However, this is not exclusively an Arab crime because organized crime, both Jewish and Russian, also participate.

Israel is a wonderful place to live because it encourages higher education, culture, research and development, and is known for some of the best universities in the world.  Even the city where I live is called “The City of Science and Culture.” Israel has been ranked the second most educated country in the world, Canada coming in first.  Israel is known for excellence in computer science, natural sciences, physics, mathematics and chemistry.  Its scientists have won the Nobel Prize in chemistry four times and have received Nobel Prizes in several other disciplines.  Not bad for a relatively new country of only 8 million people.

Technically Speaking

Israel has the highest concentration of scientists and engineers in the world, and produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation.  It has one of highest number of patents per capita.  Israel comes in first with respect to proportion of start-ups to population, and has the largest number of bio-tech start-ups per capita. Other than California’s Silicon Valley, Israel has the highest concentration of high-tech companies in the world.  It has the most venture capital investment in the world.  It also has the highest rate of entrepreneurship among women in the world. As for culture, Israel has the most museums and orchestras per capita in the world.

Some news media claim Israel is an apartheid state. That is absurd.  Arabs serve in the Knesset, are judges, doctors, serve on the Supreme Court, and 60 percent of pharmacists are Arab.  Surveys were taken and most Israeli Arabs in East Jerusalem do not want East Jerusalem to be under Palestinian control because they will lose all the benefits of being an Israeli citizen. There are tons of benefits.  Israel lets Palestinian Arabs from the West Bank work in Israel.  The BDS movement against Israel has only made things worse for the Palestinians. Many Palestinians had work making Israeli products in the West Bank and Jerusalem.  Because of the boycotts, they lost their jobs.

Israel is the only country in the Middle East that gives Christians and other non-Jews freedom of religion and expression. Tel Aviv is the No. 1 destination for gay rights.  There is definitely an advantage to being a woman here.  Most judges and prosecutors are female. When it comes to minority rights, Israel is the place to be.

Although these are all great reasons for living in Israel, they do not really answer the question of why I live here.  After touching Israeli ground for the first time, I knew that I had to return “home” to the land of my ancestors.  It only took 28 years for me to do so.  How can I describe the tears in my eyes, goosebumps on my arms, and shivers from head to toe?  How could I not want to live in a country where I feel G-d’s presence at all times and I am living history every day?

L’hitraot.  Shachar

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