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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Yair Lapid asks what's wrong with Israel

As Israel's 60th birthday draws near, a chorus of complaints about the country's failures, large and small, is being heard throughout the land. Columnist Yair Lapid cataloged some leading criticisms and took issue with them in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israeli's largest-circulation daily newspaper. A translation of Lapid's column appeared April 26 on Ynetnews, Yedioth's English-language website.

Is Israel really that bad?

Yair Lapid has a few questions for Israelis who think that things are so bad around here

by Yair Lapid

Published: 04.26.08, 15:14,7340,L-3536046,00.html

If the state of education is so bad here, academia is in a freefall, and the brain-drain is in full force, how do you explain the fact that our high-tech sector is so successful, that the number of scientific publications is the highest in the world per capita (just like the number of patents,) and that we invented the disk-on-key and cell phone text messages?

If we don’t care about anything anymore and have no interest in what’s happening in the country, how do you explain the fact that Rabin Square gets filled up by protestors five times a year, that the evening newscasts are the most watched TV shows, and that most arguments around here are about politics?

If the public lost its faith in the IDF, our mutual responsibility is fading, and the number of draft-dodgers is skyrocketing, how do you explain the fact that all of us are so preoccupied with the fate of our captives, and that the round of recruitment that enlisted to the IDF immediately after the Second Lebanon War broke an all-time record after 70.8% of new recruits asked to join combat units?

If government corruption is everywhere and the law is a joke, how do you explain the fact that the son of a former prime minister is in jail, the former Labor minister was recently convicted over a bribe, and that our prime minister is constantly under investigation?

If our press has became silly like in America, yellow like in England, and irresponsible like in Italy, how do you explain the fact that newspapers last week cast aside all our supermodels to make room for publishing a chapter from David Grossman’s new book?

If the economy is collapsing, the concern for the poor is constantly declining, and the Treasury has been taken over by a gang of neo-conservatives who do whatever they feel like, how do you explain the fact that the number of poor Israelis has declined for the second year in a row, that the Wisconsin Plan appears to be a success story, and that not even one person has died of hunger in the history of our country?

If every ultra-Orthodox family has 10 children and more people are becoming religious, how do you explain the fact that the ultra-Orthodox have remained 8% of the population, exactly as they were when Israel was established?

Life expectancy high, unemployment low

If the Russian immigrants are failing to integrate, prefer to live in their own ghettos, read Russian newspapers, watch Russian television, and shop at their own shops, how do you explain the fact that all of them learned Hebrew, that their children are joining the IDF en masse, that about 80% of them own their apartment (a higher percentage than the general population), and that they show no intention of returning to Moscow?

If our youths are violent and detached, drink too much alcohol, and only care about going to clubs and stabbing each other, how do you explain the fact that close to 250,000 children are members of youth groups, and that tens of thousands choose to embark on a year of social service or join groups that help the needy?

If our immigration police is facing collapse because of the burden, the Agriculture Ministry brings here masses of Thai workers, every elderly Israeli has a Filipino nurse, and thousands of Palestinians come here to work every day, how do you explain the fact that unemployment in the first quarter of the year dropped to 6.5%, a 15-year low?

If our healthcare system is collapsing, our doctors are leaving, and extra health insurance coverage costs a fortune, how do you explain the fact that our per capita national expenditure dedicated to healthcare is only 7.8% of our GDP, roughly half of what it is in the US, and only two thirds of what it is in Germany and France? And how do you explain the fact that life expectancy here is higher than in all the abovementioned countries?

If President Bush is the best friend Israel ever had, Italy’s Berlusconi declares that he is warmly pro-Zionist, France’s Sarkozy decided to include Holocaust studies at every school in the country, Germany’s Angela Merkel ended the support for the Palestinian Authority and visited the Knesset to tell us how much she loves us, and Tony Blair appointed himself as a peace ambassador, how do you explain the fact that we feel like everyone hates us?

If our personal safety is declining, crime is skyrocketing, and we no longer can leave the house for fear that someone will rob us, how do you explain the fact that in a particularly broad national poll 81% of Israelis said that they are satisfied with their neighborhood and 75% said that “they feel safe when they walk alone on the street at night?”

If girls here have bad taste in clothing, every third girl gets a piercing in her belly button, half of them are tattooed like an Irish sailor, and the sweat wipes off their makeup three minutes after they leave the house, how do you explain the fact that every tourist who arrives here immediately declares that Israeli women are the most beautiful in the world?

If we have turned into a bunch of uncultured barbarians who yell on the street, swear, show contempt to academia and the arts, and only watch television, how do you explain the fact that we are number one in the world when it comes to museums per capita, number two in the world when it comes to reading books, that the percentage of Israelis who go to the theater (41%) is double the percentage of those who go to soccer games, and that one of four Israelis attended a classical music performance this year?

If we suffer so much, a plane ticket on sale is only $240, and Canada is happy to let us in, how do you explain the fact that we’re still here?


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