by: Cheryl Hauer, International Vice President
Everyday life is an uncertain thing. We never really know when our best-laid plans will go awry, our happiness turn to sadness or our joy to mourning. Yet men have learned to live with that uncertainty, even harness it into an energy that keeps us going—looking forward and not back—hopefully always ready for the next challenge. Even in countries like Ukraine, where the peaceful, pleasant world has been turned upside down by violence and death, there is a drive to survive, to overcome, a dynamism that demands a return to everyday life even with all its uncertainties.
But is that true of all mankind or only a segment of society here and there? To answer that question, organizations like the United Nations Sustainable Development Network, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Global Happiness Council as well as global analytics companies like Gallup and Pew are asking the citizens of the world just how they are doing. Over a hundred countries have participated in these studies, answering questions about sadness, stress, enjoyment and anger. Other factors are also considered in some of the studies, including GDP, healthcare, education and employment stability. But the bottom line is that all these surveys are designed to take the emotional temperature of the world we live in.
Gallup’s Negative Experience Index tells us that unhappiness is on the rise. “The world overall is becoming a sadder, more worried, more stressed-out place,” the study’s authors report. What’s more, the Middle East is in many areas the angriest, saddest region on earth. The top ten saddest countries in 2022 included Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan. But Afghanistan took first prize for sadness. The study reveals that never in the history of Gallup’s polling has any other population in the world ever reported feeling as sad as the Afghan people scored in 2022.
Israel, on the other hand, scored higher on the happiness scale than ever before. The UN Happiness Report placed Israel at number 9, its best spot yet, while Gallup’s Happiest Countries index placed the Jewish state at a whopping number 7. The World Happiness Report did the same, while a happiness survey by Pew ranked Israel the second happiest country in the world. That’s probably why Israel is seen as one of the countries where you are most likely to be smiled at.
Lebanon, Turkey, Afghanistan and Jordan are not just the saddest, they also made the top five for most stressed-out, most worried and least likely to smile. Add Egypt, and you have the five countries least likely to find enjoyment in daily life. Conversely, 84% of Israelis say they are not sad, 75% are not stressed, 66% live lives of enjoyment, 64% are well rested and 85% feel fulfilled and respected by their country.
Perhaps the most worrisome, however, is the revelation that Israel lives in the maddest area in the world. Gauging anger, the study revealed that Lebanon is the angriest nation on the globe, followed by Turkey at number 2, Iraq in fourth place, Afghanistan coming in fifth and Jordan rated sixth. Regardless of how happy you might be, there are realities of living in such a bad neighborhood that unfortunately must be dealt with.
Physical health is also important to our researchers. They report that Israel comes in eighth in the top 10 healthiest countries in the world. They credit an emphasis on a healthy diet and low alcohol consumption for Israel’s good health as well as a close family structure and community support. They also give a shout out to Israel’s excellent healthcare system that is the fundamental right of every citizen. Some believe that Israel’s mandatory military service also contributes to Israelis’ good health through its physical training and mental discipline. Regardless of the reasons, if you are an Israeli between the ages of 30 and 70, your chances of dying of a heart attack, various diseases, stroke, cancer or diabetes are among the lowest in the entire world.
In addition, Israel’s life expectancy is impressive. Afghanistan’s is only 65.9 years, Egypt’s 72, Jordan’s 75, Turkey’s 78 and Lebanon’s 79. Israel’s, on the other hand, rests at 83.49. Perhaps most impressive of all, however, lies in the area of infant mortality. For women in Lebanon, there are 9.014 deaths per 1,000 births. In Jordan, the number is 12, Egypt 13, Iran 10.49 and Turkey 7.268. Yemen, though not exactly a neighbor, has an infant mortality rate of 41.998 deaths per 1,000 births. Israel’s infant mortality rate rests at 2.28, one of the lowest in the world.
The differences between Israel and her neighbors are striking, but one question our researchers didn’t answer is why. What makes Israel one of the happiest nations on earth while her closest neighbors are steeped in anger and discontent?
Experts have varying opinions, mostly based on the circumstances in Israel’s neighboring countries. Poverty, political and economic instability, war and religion each play a role in determining the emotional and physical climate in the Middle East. And as mentioned before, many believe that Israel’s strong family dynamic, communal approach to life and the belief that every human being is created in the image of God set her apart from her neighbors.
Others, however, would suggest that at bedrock, Israel is different because God created her to be so. His promises to bring the Jewish people home, plant them in their land never to be uprooted again, to prosper them and protect them are all being fulfilled before the eyes of the nations. It is through His people, God said, that those nations will eventually recognize who He is. In the interim, Israel has been called to be a light in a very dark world. It has always been His plan to use His faithful, merciful, redemptive relationship with Israel to draw mankind to Himself, and He will not relent until that plan is fulfilled. Full stop.
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