Op-ed on the 75th Anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel by Ms. Orna Sagiv, the Ambassador of Israel to Thailand
Today is a very special day, as Israel celebrates 75th anniversary of independence. After thousands of years in the diaspora, a national homeland for the Jewish people was re-established in the land of our ancestors. This is a moment to reflect and celebrate the many remarkable achievements we have accomplished in such a short period of time; from a newly created state to a vibrant and prosperous country with a thriving economy, a diverse society and a dynamic culture. Let’s take a look at the social changes and economic development over the past seven and a half decades since Israel’s establishment in 1948.
During the 1950s, Israel struggled for its survival. The country, struggled to absorb the wave of migrants to the newly founded state, more than doubling its population. Apart from being surrounded by unfriendly neighbors, the growing population faced infertile land and water scarcity. Israeli scientists and engineers made significant advancements in agriculture, developing innovative techniques to irrigate the arid land and boost crop yields. In this decade, Israel’s solar energy solutions were first introduced.
The 1960s were a time of significant economic progress for Israel with annual GDP growth at the average of 11%. Israel also started the development of the technology industry and the Israeli Space Program was founded. The first step towards making the desert bloom was taken by the construction of The National Water Carrier which brings water from the northern Sea of Galilee to the arid southern region. By the end of the decade, Golda Meir was elected as the first female Prime Minister of Israel.
The 1970s brought large social changes in Israel, with big waves of immigrants from various countries and cultures. A bloody war in 1973 – Yom Kippur War, eventually lead to a peace agreement with Egypt (1979), the first Arab country to accept the existence of Israel. Meanwhile, Israel continued to make major steps in various fields including hi-tech, industry and medicine. Many new companies were established, including Intel Israel and IBM Israel.
In the 1980s, Israel’s economy grew significantly due to the success of our hi-tech industry, making Israel a hub for technological innovation and entrepreneurship. This was the decade when MNCs started establishing offices in Israel, leading to the more than 500 companies that have an R&D center in Israel today.
The 1990s were a time of remarkable political change for Israel with the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. Unfortunately, this also led to years of violent terror attacks against Israel. A Peace Treaty between Israel and Jordan was signed in 1994, ending the state of war that has existed between the two countries since the 1948.
At the same time, Israel again faced the challenge of absorbing migration as over one million Jews migrated to Israel from the previous Soviet Union, a population growth of more than 20% in one decade. Israeli culture boomed – film, music and literature. Israel won the Eurovision Song Contest twice, in 1998 and 1999. Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, became the first Israeli astronaut to go into space, and died in the tragic crash of Space Shuttle Columbia.
Israel’s high-tech industry experienced explosive growth during the 1990s, with companies like Check Point Software Technologies, Comverse Technology, and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries leading the way. The Israeli Venture Capital industry also grew rapidly, providing funding for many of the country’s high-tech startups. This industry hasn’t stopped growing, and today Israel is ranked highest in the world in VC investment per capita.
The 2000s started with the outbreak of a new round of violence and terror, and new economic challenges. Yet the government’s reform to stabilize the economy paid off when Israel came out of the 2008 crisis relatively unharmed.
The Israeli government launched the “Yozma” program, which provided incentives to Venture Capital firms to invest in Israeli startups, thus assisting the tremendous grown of the Israeli start-up ecosystem. Several Israeli scientists won Nobel Prizes, including Ada Yonath, the first Israeli woman awardee.
In the 2010s, Tel Aviv was named Startup Capital with the number of its startup companies second only to Silicon Valley; CyberSpark, national cyber complex, was opened, highlighting Israel’s growing prominence in cyber technology. Consequently, Israel ranked in top 10 most powerful and innovative nations.
Israel saw a historic breakthrough in the 2020s with the signing of the Abraham Accords, establishing diplomatic and economic normalization with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and later with Sudan and Morocco. This agreement has created new opportunities for economic and diplomatic cooperation in the region, with the potential to contribute to a more stable and peaceful Middle East.
When it comes to the 69 years of Thai-Israeli diplomatic relationship, the people-to-people and government-to-government relationships have been growing closer and tighter. Our bilateral trade is flourishing and tourism in booming. We have joined hands to face global challenges such as Global Warming and Climate Change, Food and Water security, Homeland Security, Inclusiveness and Accessibility for people with disabilities.
On this very special occasion, I would like to assure that as before, the State of Israel and the Kingdom of Thailand will keep working together, hand in hand, for the future of peace, security, prosperity and brotherhood of our beloved nations.