Elkan’s view from Radlett


One of the things about being Jewish is that we spend a great deal of time complaining. This is not a new thing; Moses suffered it when the children of Israel came out of Egypt. After 3000 years this particular tendency has if anything becomes stronger, and it is therefore not a bad thing from time to time to actually count up our achievements.

Seventy years ago we were beginning to understand the enormity of what had happened in the Holocaust. We had no army to defend ourselves, no state that would take us in without quibble or argument, no one who was prepared to stand up and speak for the Jewish people.

Since however that period is ancient history for many of us, the world since 1984 is a concept with which we can all grapple. In the last 30 years the population of Israel has doubled, living conditions have improved markedly, and the number of cars has gone from 157 to 364 per thousand inhabitants (and don’t we know it in the rush-hour). Gross national product has gone up by 900%, while the national debt has fallen from 280% of the GNP to 66%, a figure that might please George Osborne. Exports have gone up 860% and high-tech exports 3600%. Israel ranks higher than the UK in terms of health wealth and personal security, while life expectancy is very high and the country is reckoned to be the fifth happiest in the whole world.

Of course there are problems. Poverty is much greater than it ought to be, the cost of living is too high, the political system is chaotic, the religious parties have too much influence, bureaucracy is a national disease and fairly frequently the Israeli government speaks first and thinks long after. But occasionally we need to lift up our eyes and see how very much better off we are than the generations that came before us. Israel is nothing short of a miracle, and we are fortunate to be privileged to see and experience it.