Why Are Israelis So Happy?

Why Are Israelis So Happy?

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As Israel’s war with Hamas passes the six-month mark, here are some updates:

  • The IDF is withdrawing troops from the southern city of Khan Younis; Hamas rejected an Israeli ceasefire proposal and Israel set a date for an offensive into Hamas’s last stronghold in Rafah.
  • Israel and the US are preparing for a significant attack by Iran in response to Israel’s strike in Damascus last week.
  • Israel is also preparing for a second war on its northern border with Hezbollah.
  • Iran is arming fighters in Iraq to join Hezbollah in an attack on Israel.
  • The UN recently adopted what Israel’s envoy to the group called the body’s 105th anti-Israel resolution.

Despite all the hardships Israelis are facing these days, Gallup’s recent World Happiness Report lists their country as the fifth-happiest nation on Earth, behind Finland, Denmark, Iceland, and Sweden. The US ranks twenty-third.

Why, in the midst of a battle for its very existence, surrounded by enemies on all sides and confronting the escalation of anti-Semitism around the world, are Israelis so happy?

And how is the answer relevant to Christians in our secularized culture?

“An intimate society that runs on trust and generates hope”

Gil Troy is an American presidential historian and senior fellow in Zionist thought at the Jewish People Policy Institute. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, he explains the difference between Israel and the US: “Amid unspeakable suffering, Israelis have found comfort in one another and a higher calling. Too many Americans feel lonely and lost.”

According to Troy, “Israelis pursue happiness through family and community, by feeling rooted and having a sense of purpose.” He adds: “Despite disagreeing passionately, Israelis live in an intimate society that runs on trust and generates hope. Israelis feel that they’re never alone, and that their relatives and friends will never abandon them.”

After leading more than thirty study tours to Israel over the years, I can attest personally to the truth of his description. The Israelis I know are indeed some of the most optimistic, gracious, and family-centered people I have ever known.

By contrast, Troy says of anti-Israel progressive students in the US:

These illiberal liberals trash traditional families, religion, and America’s noble story of a flawed nation becoming “a more perfect union.” These campus commissars are among the unhappy Americans the surgeon general sees in the depths of loneliness and despair.

Israelis didn’t seek this war—but when attacked, they unleashed a patriotism, idealism, self-sacrifice, and grit that today’s regressive progressives scorn. Israelis’ resilience, duty, and love of life explain how this often polarized and besieged society remains such a happy place. Rather than demonize these heroes, protesters could learn from Israelis about the art of living—not only for their sake but for America’s too.

Secularized Americans can indeed learn from Israelis about “resilience, duty, and love of life.” But both are missing a factor that should cause Christians to be an even greater model for “the art of living.”

The gospel before the Gospels

Witnessing yesterday’s solar eclipse, I was reminded of the biblical report that on Good Friday “there was darkness over the whole land” from noon until 3:00 PM (Luke 23:44–45). The ancient historian Thallus the Samaritan attempted to explain this darkness as an eclipse of the sun. The church father Julius Africanus showed that Thallus was mistaken since Passover always occurs at the time of the full moon, but a full moon cannot come between the earth and the sun.

I mention this discussion because Thallus wrote his account around AD 52, likely before any of the canonical Gospels. Here we find fascinating, early non-biblical historical evidence for Jesus’ existence and crucifixion.

Of course, the best evidence for Jesus’ existence in the first century and relevance in the twenty-first century is the changed lives of his followers.

Think of it: the God who made you now lives in you (Colossians 1:27). His Spirit indwells you (1 Corinthians 3:16) and is working to make you more like Christ every day (Romans 8:29). You are literally the “body of Christ” in the world (1 Corinthians 12:27), continuing his earthly ministry through your own.

Here’s the point:

The more we become like Christ, the more we will draw the world to Christ.

“The condescension of compassion”

To this end, let’s close by reflecting on the miracle of Jesus’ incarnation. Pope St. Leo the Great wrote:

[Jesus] took the nature of a servant without stain of sin, enlarging our humanity without diminishing his divinity. He emptied himself; though invisible he made himself visible, though Creator and Lord of all things he chose to be one of us mortal men. Yet this was the condescension of compassion, not the loss of omnipotence. So he who in the nature of God had created man, became in the nature of a servant, man himself. . . .

Beyond our grasp, he chose to come within our grasp. Existing before time began, he began to exist at a moment in time. Lord of the universe, he hid his infinite glory and took the nature of a servant. Incapable of suffering as God, he did not refuse to be a man capable of suffering. Immortal, he chose to be subject to the laws of death. . . .

One and the same person—this must be said over and over again—is truly the Son of God and truly the son of man.

Because Jesus became one of us, we can be one with him.

How fully will you seek to know him and make him known today?

Image credit: ©Getty Images/Roman Mykhalchuk

Jim Denison, PhD, is a cultural theologian and the founder and CEO of Denison Ministries. Denison Ministries includes DenisonForum.org, First15.org, ChristianParenting.org, and FoundationsWithJanet.org. Jim speaks biblically into significant cultural issues at Denison Forum. He is the chief author of The Daily Article and has written more than 30 books, including The Coming Tsunamithe Biblical Insight to Tough Questions series, and The Fifth Great Awakening.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

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