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An American Historian Explains Why Israelis Are So Happy

Israel ranked 5th in the most recent World Happiness Index in spite of the recent war whereas the United States fell from 20 to 23.


In a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, historian Gil Troy attributed Israel’s high happiness rating on a feeling of social cohesiveness, family ties and a sense of tradition and history.

Troy, a presidential historian and senior fellow in Zionist thought at the Jewish People Policy Institute, noted that Israel ranked 5th in the most recent World Happiness Index in spite of the recent war whereas the United States fell from 20 to 23.

Troy wrote, “Don’t confuse ‘happiness’ with ‘comfort’ or ‘self-indulgence.’ Israelis began 2023 polarized politically—only to be united by Hamas’s invasion.”

He added, “Amid unspeakable suffering, Israelis have found comfort in one another and a higher calling. Too many Americans feel lonely and lost.”

A feeling of community and a sense of belonging, according to Troy, play a major role in the happiness of Israelis, in spite of facing terror attacks and the current war.

“Israelis pursue happiness through family and community, by feeling rooted and having a sense of purpose,” he wrote.

“Israelis grow up with many outside influences, many adult role models, not just their parents. It starts with our large weddings, when you’re blessed to ‘build a faithful home in Israel,” he added.

This feeling of connectedness, according to Troy, may be a reason that many Israelis rated very high their feelings of “trust, benevolence, and social connections.”

The historian cited political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville who called families “the backbone of democracies.”

Troy added, “Family inculcates loyalty, commitment and self-sacrifice. Belonging to communities—extended families—teaches citizens to care about and cooperate with others.”

In addition, in spite of demonstrations and passionate disagreements, as witnessed during anti-government demonstrations, Israelis nevertheless “live in an intimate society that runs on trust and generates hope. Israelis feel they’re never alone, and that their relatives and friends will never abandon them.”

Troy quoted the Father of Political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, and wrote “Israelis don’t count in days and decades but in millennia and eternity.”

Troy added, “They feel part of a bigger story, Jews’ historical saga reaching back 3,500 years. The pain punctuating this story helps transcend passing traumas.”

“Even as most Israelis experienced Hamas’s Oct. 7 killing spree as a Jewish event, powered by centuries of Jew-hatred, Israelis recall many redemptive moments too. Israelis’ favorite holidays, including Hanukkah, Passover, and Independence Day, re-enact this reassuring oppression-to-liberation arc,” he concluded.

RELATED ARTICLE: WORLD HAPPINESS REPORT: The U.S. Happiness Ranking in 2020 was #18 ― In 2024 it is #23. Why?

EDITORS NOTE: This UNITED WITH ISRAEL column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.