Israeli Society After 25 Years

April 25, 1973

Report Outline
Stocktaking on 25th Anniversary
A Century of Jewish Ingathering
Unifying and Divisive Forces Today
Special Focus

Stocktaking on 25th Anniversary

Satisfaction and Disappointments in Statehood

Anniversaries are a time of stocktaking, for nations no less than for persons. So it is to be expected that the state of Israel. 25 years old on May 7,will take time after the parades, the self-congratulatory toasts and other anniversary celebrations to reflect on its condition. A basic question might be: How well does Israeli society, a quarter-century after the birth of the state and a century since the first Jewish settlers arrived to create a new Zion in the desert, live up to the dreams of its founders?

The question is of more than parochial interest. Like the United States in its early years as a republic, Israel fascinates many foreigners as something new in the world of nation-states. Aside from concern over the effects of tensions in the Middle East on the prospects of world peace, there is much curiosity about the way in which the tiny state is working out its destiny. For nothing in history quite compares with the saga that began with the visionary socialists who came to a desolate Palestine with the dream of creating the first Jewish “homeland” in 2,000 years. In one respect, their dream came true in full measure: Israel today is a proud, prospering, respected nation—a small power, but a power nonetheless. In other respects the dream has become a fantasy of what might have been. Where, ask some of the older Israelis, has all the idealism gone?

The dream and the reality do not always coincide. Asked whether she was satisfied with what Israel is today, Prime Minister Golda Meir told Oriana Fallaci, the Italian journalist, that “as a socialist, I cannot say Israel is what I dreamed…[but] as a Jewish socialist…Israel is more than I dreamed.” There were keen disappointments, said the 73-year-old leader, who had emigrated to Israel in 1921. “I believe none of us dreamers realized in the beginning what difficulties would arise,” she said.

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