It’s pretty unbelievable, but for the third time running the World Happiness Report says that Israel is one of the happiest nations in the world–11th to be precise. It’s easy to understand why peaceful, orderly, and affluent Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, and Australia are at the top of the smiley nations, but Israel?
What could Israelis have to be so happy about? Yes, we’re a bunch of Jews living the Zionist dream in Eretz Israel but–and it’s a ginormous but–that reality is tempered by war, terrorism, unstable governments, corruption, abuse of power, international condemnation, mandatory army service, high taxes, lack of affordable housing, crowded schools–should I go on?
Yet, despite all of these “salt in our wounds” additions to the heavy mantle of history which cloaks our country, we are still smiling–great wide toothy “life is good” grins, too (well, according to the report anyway; don’t expect us to be super happy every single minute of every single day now will you).
So what makes Israelis so damn happy?
1. We have purpose. Despite the fact that Israel has reached the ripe old age of 67, we are still building a country here, guys, and fighting for survival. We’re still turning deserts into greenhouses and airports, building new cities, crystalizing our national identity, and we do it all with a gun at our side and a huge threat over our heads. But a man with a purpose is a man with meaning, and that makes us happy.
2. We belong. Because Jewish holidays are the national holidays, we are in sync. We rest, we worship, we remember, we cry, and we celebrate together.
3. We do it now. With so many wars, terrorist events, and threats hanging over our heads, we are experts on the fragility of life. Because of that, we don’t walk on the treadmill, we march the hell out of it, or run full speed ahead like every day is our bucket list day.
4. We let it all hang out. Israelis give vent to their emotions in a loud, direct, and often offensive way. We shout, we hoot our horns, we curse and cluck; and we reveal everything–how much we earn, who we voted for, what our therapist said. There’s no bottling up emotions and fermenting discontent here.
5. We’re healthy. Israelis have the 14thlongest life expectancy in the world. That could be due to genes, good health care, or a diet which contains plenty of olive oil, fresh fruit, vegetables, and lots of home cooking.
6. We are one big family. Yep, we fight like a family too, but when push comes to shove, we band together and lend a hand, or some shekels, a ride, our phones, our arms for a baby, a hug, a meal, our homes, and more.
7. We have blue skies. For eight months of the year our sky is an energetic, let’s-go-outside smiley blue, but our happiness melts at around 90º unless we’re submerged in water or cool air.
8. We jump at every excuse to celebrate. In Israel you will be invited to the wedding of your next door neighbor’s second cousin and you will go, because hell, life is short, it’s a mitzvah, and any excuse to shimmy your hips is a good one.
9. We are warriors. Mandatory army service turns our 18-year-old lay-about teens into fierce, independent leaders. Want to spy, fly planes, train dogs, shoot an M16? You got it.
10. We are optimists. Our national saying is “ihiyeh beseder” (it will all work out for the best), even when the rockets are zooming over our heads and we’re vilified for fighting back.
11. We are proud of our heritage. We are the fruits of King David, Esther, the Maccabees, and Ben Gurion. We gave birth to the USB flash drive, Waze, Viber, and Get Taxi. What’s more, we take ownership of every Jew or closet Jew, no matter if they are Israeli or not, and make them one of ours. Natalie Portman–born here, ours. Madonna–loves kabbalah and visits regularly, ours. George Ezra–is he Jewish? Who cares, he’s called Ezra, we’ll have him, too.
So next time you meet a prickly sabra who’s looking a bit fed up, being rude, or ranting on, know that underneath it all they’re a happy chappy, pleased with their lot and just kvetching, because that’s what we do.