I am writing this piece on the day of Israel’s 63rd birthday. Although I would love to address Israel’s right to exist and its unparalleled generosity and ethical behavior towards its neighbors, this is the wrong forum to address these political issues. Instead, I am writing this in order to demonstrate to the Williams community how – politics aside – support for Israel complements the liberal, environmental and academic ethos of the College.
Most Williams students were highly supportive of the recent repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and are proponents of gay rights. Openly gay Israelis have been serving in the army for years and Israeli citizens are among the most supportive of gay marriage in the world, with 61 percent of Israelis believing that gays should be allowed to get married. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in Israel greatly surpass those of neighboring countries in terms of progressivity. Palestinian citizens have been known to flee their settlements and take up residency in Tel Aviv to avoid persecution. Unlike in Jordan and Iran where honor killings of women still occur, women are entitled to every choice and opportunity in society that men are granted. In fact, Israel was one of the first countries to elect a female prime minister to office in 1969. It thus becomes clear that Israel is an oasis in the Middle East in terms of tolerance and freedom enjoyed by its citizens.
Since I have come to Williams I have seen takeout boxes replaced by reusable containers, the removal of trays in the dining hall, increased enthusiasm for “Do It in the Dark,” the genesis of Williams Sustainable Growers and many other green initiatives. Like Williams, Israel has also embraced this sacred honor of protecting the environment, and few countries have been responsible for more environmentally based innovations than Israel. Israel’s pioneering in solar energy sector has already made a global impact, and Israeli farmers have successfully cultivated arid and swamp regions. To date, Israel has ratified 15 environmental conventions and five protocols. Entering the 21st century, Israel was the only country in the world with a net increase in trees. As early as 2008 Israel was taxing the use of plastic bags in order to encourage citizens to purchase reusable bags when shopping. The clean technology company Project Better Place aims to install a vast network of charging stations for electric cars across Israel. It is projected that by 2015 nearly half of the cars in Israel will be electric. Israel is spearheading an international green campaign, which directly aligns itself with the ideals of the College.
Finally, given the fact that Williams is first and foremost an academic institution that prides itself on both teaching and research, an examination of Israel’s academic success is necessary. Israel, a country with a population of seven million, boasts nine Nobel laureates. Four of the top 150 universities in the world are located in Israel and it has the highest ratio of university degrees to population in the world. Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other country in the world, and it has the highest concentration of hi-tech companies in the world, barring Silicon Valley, Calif. Online instant messengers, Google’s search bar, the first cell phone and the Intel Pentium chip were all invented in Israel.
One can make liberal, green, academic and many other cases for Israel. Often, Williams students get caught up in the technicalities of the political saga between Israel and the Palestinian settlements, and this leads to unnecessary drama. While the political situation is certainly worth discussing, I believe that Williams students should take some time to celebrate these aforementioned aspects of Israel, for Israel almost directly aligns itself with our college’s different philosophies. Happy 63rd birthday, Israel, and many more.
Raphael Menko ’12 is a history and economics major from Narberth, Pa. He lives in Currier.