The Good Life During Wartime: Israel ranks 7th in Global Happiness

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Talk all you like about the “troubled Middle East”  but yet another survey is out showing Israelis, at least, quite like their lives. Israel ranks 7th in the entire world in the new Gallup Global Wellbeing report, which covers more than 150 countries.  Residents were asked questions based on the splendidly named Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale, which asks people to rank their existence on a scale of 1 to 10, one being “worst possible life” and ten being “best possible life.”  Those who say at least seven, and say they see life hitting at least an 8 in the future are rated as “thriving.” Those who answer 4 or below for both present and future are “suffering.”  Everyone else is “struggling.”

By that measure,  62 percent of Israelis rank as thriving, and only 3 percent as suffering. The breakdown is identical to Australians, another sun-splashed, economically vibrant nation.  Only 14 percent of Palestinians qualified as thriving, however; 70 percent struggled and 15 percent are suffering. Gallup included the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem in its sample, along with the Israel-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The poll underscores the enthusiastic embrace of normal life that dominates the Israeli zeitgeist, and with it the tenor of Israeli politics. Most in Israel just want to be left alone to enjoy private life and the pleasures of the Eastern Mediterranean, an entirely human attitude encouraged by Israel’s security situation.  That situation appeared to improve markedly earlier this month with the deployment of “Iron Dome,” an anti-missile system that knocked down several rockets launched from Gaza before they could reach Israeli cities.  The system was hailed as a great saver of lives — and, more than that, of nerves — for the hundreds of thousands of Israelis living within striking distance of Palestinian militants.

But not everyone cheered.  “Take a step back and think about what has really happened here: after surrounding itself with a wall to prevent terror attacks from the east, Israel is huddling under an aerial cover in the south,” Udi Hirsch wrote in the Hebrew-language daily Ma’ariv.  “…both defensive measures reveal a tragic reality. In slightly less than a decade Israel has surrounded itself with a defensive wall and a lack of hope, while reconciling itself to the adversarial nature of the region we live in.” Hirsch goes on:

No one talks anymore about a ‘solution’ or about an ‘agreement’ (we won’t even mention the third word, the one beginning with ‘p,’ so we don’t make you laugh), but rather fortifying the conflict… Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the joy at the Iron Dome system mainly expresses the extent of Israel’s psychological repression, which grows deeper as that reality becomes harder to digest. This illusion allows us to maintain the illusion of normalcy, of economic health and of an escape to prime time copied from more Western and calmer countries than this. But these real and metaphoric walls have a price.

To wit: In its story on the Gallup survey, the Israeli news site Y-net linked to a recent BBC poll showing only three other nations were viewed more negatively than Israel by citizens of other countries.