A recent poll indicating that Israelis are a happy lot caused some critics to get their feathers ruffled. After all, this is a country in turmoil, with every kind of external and internal problem under the sun, from socio-economic gaps to global warming and everything in between. We’ve got missiles flying from Gaza, and not enough bomb shelters. We’ve got a nuclearizing Iran, and not enough gas masks. We’ve got all the latest pharmaceuticals, and not enough money to include them in our health baskets. We’ve got teen violence and demography problems, religious-secular struggles and increasing divorce statistics. We’ve got illegal immigrants, housing shortages and wage stagnancy. We’ve got high taxes and skyrocketing gas prices. We’ve got obesity and anorexia, OCD and PTSD. We’ve got it all – and then some.
So what in the world do we have to be happy about? Why, with all the misery and mayhem, did we celebrate the country’s 64th birthday with such pomp and circumstance? How could we have "ooohed and aaahed" at the fireworks signaling our celebration, and then gotten up fresh and early to head out for barbecues in bumper-to-bumper traffic, flags fluttering against our windshields?
Where do we come off not only experiencing well-being, but admitting to it in surveys, when we should be moaning, groaning and kvetching?
Far better analysts than I have tried to figure this out. Some attribute it to our psychological make-up; others to misleading survey questions. And then there are those who proudly point out that Israel isn’t that high up on the happiness scale, since Scandinavia supposedly trumps us, due to all the freebies its populations enjoy from their governments.
Nor do I know too many individuals, in Israel or any place else, who walk around talking about how happy they are. In fact, most people seem to expend their verbal energy on emphasizing what’s lacking in their lives, not what is abundant. So I’m not sure which Israelis were actually polled on this score.
But I will say that, in the global scheme of things, our societal living conditions are plum.
While we go about our daily business of survival – which includes worrying about overdrafts and overeating, passing exams and getting passed up for promotions – our neighbors in the Middle East are living in the Middle Ages.
These neighbors reside about an hour’s flight from Tel Aviv, in virtually every direction. But to get to any of their capitals, we would do better to board a time machine than a plane. That Damascus has become a bloody battlefield is old news already. And the conclusion about it in the West is typical: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has to be stopped. Better yet, he has to follow the other autocrats ousted by the “Arab Spring” uprisings. Indeed, the harshest attacks on U.S. President Barack Obama on this issue consist of accusing him of leaving Assad in power to slaughter his people.
While it is true that Obama has been on the wrong side of every single global crisis – Syria among them – there is one crucial detail usually omitted from the ongoing narrative about the events that have been taking place in the Muslim-Arab world over the past 16 months: Whatever else has been going on in this region since December 2010, when a Tunisian street vendor immolated himself in front of a government building, it sure isn’t democratization.
Proof of this lies in what has ensued since a number of autocrats have been toppled, with the help of the Obama administration.
Take Egypt as the prime example. The minute former President Hosni Mubarak was forced to abdicate his rule, the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis slithered their way into every nook and cranny of the political system, and transformed Egypt – a Third World country allied with the U.S. for strategic purposes – into a medieval fiefdom keen on renewing its jihadist ties to the Islamic Republic.
The latest abomination emerging from Cairo (the capital where Obama made his first monumental speech of appeasement to the Muslim world) would be hilarious if it wasn’t so horrifying.
According to the Dubai-based, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel, two new laws are under consideration by the new Egyptian parliament. One of these would lower the age at which a girl can be married to 14. The other would permit a husband to have sexual relations with his wife’s corpse for up to six hours after she is pronounced dead.
The latter bit of proposed legislation comes a year after a cleric in Morocco brought the topic to light. Since Morocco is a very modern Muslim country, and the cleric – Zamzami Abdul Bari – is a modern kind of mullah, he determined that wives, too, can have sex with their dead husbands. His additional assertion that pregnant women are permitted to drink alcohol raised an even bigger stir.
This week, Egypt’s National Council for Women appealed to the parliament not to pass the legislation, which it sees as a setback for the benefits it had managed to garner under Mubarak’s regime. (This was largely due to Suzanne Mubarak’s attention to women’s rights, such as being able to obtain a divorce from abusive husbands.)
The struggle isn’t over, but one thing the Islamist parliament members all agree on is that the achievements made on behalf of women were “destroying families” – and good riddance to Mrs. Mubarak for having had the nerve to mess around with Shariah (Islamic law).
Personally, I feel no sympathy for the feminists in Egypt. They were part and parcel of the Tahrir Square demonstrations demanding Mubarak’s ouster, even while being molested and segregated by their male “Arab Spring” counterparts. Some “Facebook Revolution” that turned out to be.
Now back to Israel, where Facebook has been the vehicle through which we have been showing off the steaks we grilled yesterday, with chocolate-stained children in tow and husbands hamming it up for iPhone photos. Necrophilia is something we don’t even know how to spell, let alone debate in the Knesset.
We may have our share of woes. But considering the way a growing proportion of the world lives, we’ve got plenty to be happy about.
Ruthie Blum, a former senior editor at The Jerusalem Post, is the author of a book on the radicalization of the Middle East, soon to be released by RVP Press.