from the June 2006 issue

The Mournful Sirens are Silenced

The mournful sounds of sirens marking Holocaust and Memorial Days, are silenced.

Israel's Independence Day began the minute Israel's Memorial Day ends. The switch from sorrow to joy is quite sudden and dramatic. Thereare few Israelis who have not lost a member of their family or a friend. Memorial Day began on Monday, May 1 evening with a minute-long wail of the sirens. The country was paying tribute to 22,123 men and women who have fallen since 1860, when Jews first started building communities outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City. Thousands of bereaved families, at all the military cemeteries, visited the graves of their loved ones. In the past year, another 138 members of the Israeli security forces have lost their lives. The loss is irreplaceable. It is nearly a quarter century since the "last war" but peace is no closer. Qasam rockets, thankfully not effective, land on the outskirts of Ashkelon. The nightmare exists that they may improve their ballistics and that a Qassam may fall in the heart of the city.

Suicide bombers still find chinks in Israel's borders and deal out death. The Palestinians now have a new government that preaches Israel's demise and does not honor previous commitments. Hope springs eternal in the human breast as we go back our daily chores.

When Independence Day comes, we stop and take note of Israel's many positive achievements. What began as a desire to transform a mostly barren land into a modern state became a key factor in Israel's scientific inquiry and technological development. The country has transformed itself into a technology mini-giant that has produced satellites, blockbuster drugs, drones and an agricultural sector which can take pride at its place among the nations of the world. Israeli wines are garnering prizes in France. Four Israeli have won Nobel Prizes in the last three years.

The future should be bright but it is still somewhat murky. A new Government has been formed but it is the least experienced Government in the history of the country. The top percentile of the population is wealthy and corporate executives are being paid salaries that could be the envy of their American counterparts. The problem of poverty is unresolved. It is a gnawing issue of which much is said but not enough done.

With Independence Day come and gone with its celebrations. We still yearn for the fulfilment of the prophetic "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more".

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report June 2006

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