Thursday, May 8, 2008

Israelis Mark Milestone Amid Prosperity They Struggle to Enjoy

By David Rosenberg

May 8 (Bloomberg) -- By plenty of objective measures, Israelis have reason to celebrate as they observe the 60th anniversary of their nation's founding today.

Their economy is growing at almost twice the pace of the world's developed countries, the average citizen can expect to live longer than a German or an American and Israeli millionaires are snapping up prestige properties like New York's Plaza Hotel.

Yet an exhibit at Jerusalem's Israel Museum marking the nation's birthday focuses on ``dread of global catastrophe and a yearning to escape to distant borders.'' With concern mounting that Iran is developing nuclear arms, a Tel Aviv University poll this week showed that three of four Israelis expect to have to fight the nation's seventh war since its 1948 founding within five years.

``There's a certain sense of hysteria here, like a small village under a volcano,'' said Tom Segev, a journalist and historian. ``It hasn't created so much a mood of depression as of cynicism.''

The Israeli sense of foreboding has its roots in history. The state was founded in the wake of the Holocaust that killed 6 million European Jews. Some 22,500 Israelis have been killed in wars and terror attacks since 1948. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said the Israel should be ``wiped out.''

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