As Israel turns 66 years old, it is important to not only reflect on the country's accomplishments, but also to look at and understand the direction in which the Jewish State is headed.
Six and a half decades after its establishment, it is worth noting that Israel is still a young country, especially compared with the U.S. and other developed western nations. Israelis have built a democratic state based on the shared vision of creating a safer and better future for the Jewish people. Though repeatedly attacked by outside enemies seeking its destruction, the Jewish state remained resilient and persevered, fighting for its survival while calling on enemies to sit down and negotiate peace.
In recent years -- and with a population of over 8 million -- many Israelis have started advocating a forward-looking approach aimed at improving the country's future beyond the security realm by strengthening Israeli society.
This shift may well mark a defining moment in Israel's growth and maturity, and is perhaps most evident in many of the issues being prioritized by Israel's political establishment. While the recent nine month-long U.S.-led peace talks with the Palestinians was a top priority for the Israeli government, the Knesset, representing the interests of broader Israeli society, has been quite busy addressing a number of national social challenges. Issues like the drafting Haredim into the Israel Defense Forces, creating a more affordable housing market, and promoting religious equality dominate the debate across Israeli society. Israelis recognize that focusing on security issues alone cannot improve the lives of those who need adequate jobs or housing, or properly address social inequalities and diversity of religious practice.
To be sure, security issues -- including threats posed by Iran's nuclear program, the peace process and terrorism and rocket attacks from Gaza -- still loom large and likely will for the foreseeable future. Yet Israelis also understand that the best way to counter those seeking to challenge the Jewish State's existence is to build a stronger Israeli society, one that addresses security needs and domestic challenges while constantly innovating and sharing its ideas and creations with the rest of the world.
On the eve of Israel's 66th birthday, the people of Israel have expressed an unquestionable desire to build a better future for their country, one where a diverse and robustly democratic society can flourish within the boundaries of a secure state. While many challenges remain for Israel and the Jewish people, as long Israelis continue believing in and working toward realizing their country's potential, Israel will continue to be strong and vital for decades to come.