Over the past six months, I've come to enjoy and better understand life in Israel. While I still have mixed feelings, I've at least developed a life for myself here which I like living. As an American living in Israel, I have a different take than that of the millions of immigrants who come here from countries that are far worse off than Israel itself. The difference is that I come from a country where the standard of living is higher than in Israel, if only marginally, and where you truly feel like you're in the developed world, where the "system" kind of works, at least for the average middle class white guy.
Yesterday's Independence Day fireworks in downtown Tel Aviv symbolized some of Israel's problems, at least as seen through the eyes of a well-to-do American 20-something year-old. Though the display went on for at least 15 minutes and seemed to thoroughly impress the crowd, the fireworks themselves were nothing special to me – loud little blasts of one or two colors, but no complicated timing, no special effects, no expensive fireworks. While Israel is arguably a first world nation with regards to its "system" (fireworks permits, safety personnel, police, committees, and planning are all necessary in Israel), the resulting display was less impressive than the Gandhi Day fireworks I witnessed in Udaipur, India, where I'm sure no permits were obtained, caution was thrown to the wind, and random teenagers set off the fireworks, running away shrieking with pleasure. So why is it that a first-world nation can't even pull off a third-world display of fireworks?
It may seem like a stretch to say that the unimpressive nature of the fireworks display is symptomatic of Israel's tendency to straddle the first and third worlds, it's inability to become a first-rate developed nation. And I may sound like a rich, spoiled American knocking the display in the first place (hell, maybe I am). But, coming from a country like America, where 4th of July fireworks are incredible, even in small towns, it's easy to draw the conclusion that Israel offers the worst of the first world without offering the best of the third.
Where that leaves us, I have no idea. But I see it all the time in Israel. A wonderful country with tons of potential, but it seems to be struggling with how to get through that last part of development and become a first-world nation. At the end of the day, I feel good about complaining about Israel – it's how I do my part to improve this place. My own form of Zionism.
Maybe in Carmit they'll have good fireworks.