Israelis Believe in Themselves

Published: May 15th 2010
in News » Local

Professor Gabriel Ben Dor

With seven and a half million citizens, 76 per cent Jewish, and a GDP of $29,000, Professor Gabriel Ben Dor proclaimed that Israel’s economy is in “good shape”.  The shekel is strong, there’s lots of stock market activity and investing.


“Israel has weathered the crisis of 2009 well,” he  told the audience at Holy Blossom Synagogue, where he spoke for two consecutive evenings.  “There is a general expansion of the economy due to present fiscal government management.”


Professor Ben Dor teaches political science at the University of Haifa, where he was formerly rector.  A Fellow at the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, he is the author of seven books and numerous articles.


An engaging speaker, he covered a wide range of topics from the roots of Muslim/Western conflict to what Israelis think and feel today.  His talk was peppered with wit and humour, and he was candid, outspoken and refreshingly not shy about getting it politically correct. 


Fear is down. There is a general sense of optimism in the country.  In a 10 year research project he conducted on the fears of Israelis, fear of terrorism is less than ever before.   


“It’s been contained into tolerable limits.”  They are not afraid of conventional attacks by an Arab army and less afraid of a nuclear attack than two or three years ago.  They are less fearful and more militant.  Hamas and Hezbollah are quiet because “they know we are ready to stand up and fight.” 


Israelis are more patriotic than 10 years ago, he said.  “They may be cynical about Zionism as an old fashioned ideology, but deep in their hearts they are almost obsessively patriotic – much more than 10 years ago.”  They serve in the military, pay taxes ­– the second highest after Sweden – and they are not leaving Israel in such large numbers. They remain staunchly patriotic even outside of Israel. 


“Above all, Israelis are optimistic.  They believe Israel will overcome the challenges.  They have faith in the future.  A sense of we will win in the end.  This is invaluable.”


“But they don’t have faith in the people that run the government.  They don’t have confidence in the government but they believe in one another, in the society, in the creative energy of the people.  Politicians are disliked and distrusted.   It’s the second most loathed profession in Israel.  The first are journalists. They think they are a bunch of liars.”


Three families own the three main newspapers and control 90 per cent of the media, Ben Dor said.  But lately, many small local papers have sprung up, like Israel Today, and are providing other perspectives.


 The military still have high prestige, also Shin Bet and Mossad.   They have great confidence in the security system.


There is a “huge problem” with the approximately 400,000 non-Jewish Israelis from the Russian speaking immigrant community.  “They work, pay taxes, serve in the IDF, speak Hebrew but they are not considered as Jews.”  Ben Dor calls this  “outrageous”. 


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