“...the air of the Land of Israel makes one wise.”
Bava Basra 158b
One doesn’t need to read Bloomberg.com to know that Israel falls within the top 20 places in the world to retire overseas. Jews who vacation or have a holiday apartment in Israel naturally know that Israel’s dry climate, kosher restaurants, leisure activities and spiritual growth lend to a positive atmosphere in which to spend one’s later days. More than all that, however, there is nothing like coming home.
Israel boasts a life expectancy that beats the United States; even if one emigrates at age 60, one is expected to live another 24 years, at least, if not to age 120. Yes, the Mediterranean diet can still overcome all those years of pastrami and schmaltz herring. If Avraham and Moshe Rabbeinu did it in their geriatric years, so can you. And, even if one doesn’t fully adopt the olive oil lifestyle, it is comforting to know that many a KFC and McDonald’s are now glatt kosher, even in Tel Aviv. This represents a true physical transformation into the spiritual realms, returning the sparks of the physical exile to new heights.
And not to mix milk and meat, but one should note that, in Israel, milk production per cow is the highest in the world. This bodes well for those who sip dairy-based mango smoothies with their falafel. This odd stat lends to the idea of Israel as truly being the Land of Milk and Honey, and a Pizza Hut without the pepperoni pilpul. Israeli cows put US cows to shame, producing 10 percent more per Bessie. Drink that.
In addition to the greater life expectancy, Israel is actually safer than the US. This hard fact flies in the face of our BBC or CNN mentality, which has convinced us that Israel is the most violent and dangerous place to be in the world. This skewed perception is likely due to the fact that Israel boasts the highest concentration of foreign journalists in the world, and not always the most objective ones. And while not to diminish barbaric terror or a fanatic milieu surrounding Israel, both of which are real, Israel boasts less than half the rate of intentional homicides than the United States: 2 vs. 5 per 100,000 people. One can thank the Infinite working together with the IDF on that project.
Yet, despite making half the salary, ratings from the OECD show that Israelis are happier with their lives, scoring 7.4 on a scale of 1-10, compared with the US, which scores 7.2. These seemingly small differences don’t sound significant, but in cosmic terms, if the mass of a neutron were lower by even 1 percent, then the world as we know it would not exist. Similarly, if physics’ strong force were slightly stronger or weaker by 1 percent in either direction, there would be no carbon-based life forms in the world. That is you and me. Take international statistics seriously.
Lest we diminish the seriousness of the topic, it is important to remind ourselves that Israel is more than simply our political home, our hi-tech home or our vacation home. Israel is our true home of all homes, spiritually and physically. When one considers where one spends one’s later days, while it is hard to remove the American super glue from our sneakers, it is a near inevitability.
The Jew in exile must not shy away from the fact that the most translated and accepted book in the universe, the Tanach, states very clearly that not only was Israel promised to the Jews as a vehicle for spiritual elevation, but, to cement the deal, Jews actually paid for it in cash. In God We Trust. Ironically, the three places that actually have a documented sale in this widely accepted universal document—Sh’chem, Chevron and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem—are exactly those to which Jews have strictly limited access. No coincidences.
As the words of our prophets speak louder and louder to these tumultuous days, take a second look at why your parents made you read that long haftorah. Far from confused by today’s events between Yishmael [Muslim world] and Edom [the west], or the fall of Babylon, our sages make it all crystal clear. Today’s conflicts have been clearly spelled out in the detail that we are all witnessing. Yet, as our eternal diamond, known as the Torah, becomes crystally clearer, the Jew will truly meditate on “In God We Trust” and trade in the green pyramids for Rambam shekel bills. In the words of our prophet, Isaiah 11:12, “He shall gather from the four corners of the earth.” Social security will follow, in more ways than one.
By Rabbi Dr. Yosef P. Glassman, MD