by: Ilse Strauss
Tuesday, 24 March 2020 | Eight years ago, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly launched a survey to gauge the global happiness levels of its member states. The findings obtained from each of the UN’s member states were noted, processed and released as the first international report on global happiness in 2012. Known officially as the World Happiness Report, the document became a tool that allows heads of states to measure where their citizens fall on the global happiness scale.
The 2020 report was published last week, scoring 153 countries from the happiest to the least happy. The first 13 slots went to the usual happiness superpowers: Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Canada and the Netherlands—nations known for snow, the northern lights, neutrality, maple syrup and tulips. The 14th spot on the list went to Israel, a tiny nation embroiled in endless conflict and controversy, surrounded by hostile neighbors plotting its destruction.
The ten happiest countries this year are Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand, Austria and Luxembourg. Although the Jewish state did not make the top ten—and slipped a spot from last year’s 13th place—the people of the Promised Land are happier than the Americans, the Germans, the French and more than 140 other nations. Israel also took the top spot as the most joyful state in the Middle East, with its neighbors Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt coming in at 111th, 119th and 138th place respectively. The bottom ten spots on the list went to Lesotho, India, Malawi, Yemen, Botswana, Tanzania, Central African Republic, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, South Sudan and Afghanistan.
Each year, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network uses a variety of polling organizations, official figures and research methods to rank countries by how happy their citizens see themselves as, based on factors like income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom and generosity. The results are published as the World Happiness Report on UN World Happiness Day on March 20th.
This year’s report was published as the world battles the global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and results are thus based on happiness levels prior to the virus hitting. The report editors did address the global crisis, saying that although there is no way to predict its effect on happiness, calamities in the past have “led sometimes to surprising increases in happiness in the wake of what might otherwise seem to be unmitigated disasters.”
The editors did, however, speculate as to a possible explanation for the curious case of happiness following such a disaster. “The most frequent explanation seems to be that people are pleasantly surprised by the willingness of their neighbors and their institutions to work in harness to help each other. This delivers a heightened sense of belonging, and pride in what they have been able to achieve by way of mitigation. These gains are sometimes great enough to compensate for the material losses.”
For the first time this year, the report also measured the happiest towns in the world, with Tel Aviv making the top ten at number 8.
The Jewish state’s high rankings on official happiness lists have long since been a cause of speculation. In every conventional and hedonistic sense, the happiness odds appear to be stacked quite decidedly against those who call the Promised Land home.
On the security side of things, Israel is the only democracy wedged into one of the world’s most volatile regions. Its neighbors are at best inhospitable; at worst, violently opposed to its existence and making the Jewish state’s destruction their aim. Israel’s citizens are in the crosshairs of every terror group in the neighborhood, and the country has fought at least one major war every decade since its rebirth.
Moreover, the Jewish people are heirs to a legacy and history so tragic that it calls for three official annual days of mourning every year. On top of that, nearly 70 years after the establishment of the modern State of Israel, it remains one of the only countries in the world whose right to exist is called into question, its borders disputed, its exports embargoed and its efforts to defend itself vilified.
Over the years, speculation has been rife as to the wellspring of happiness for the people of the Promised Land. Many have argued cohesion, a sense of family and belonging, while others have pointed to the country’s thriving economy and status as a high-tech superpower. Yet perhaps the source of Israel’s happiness comes from something ingrained in the hearts and minds of Jewish people throughout generations. “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God” (Ps. 146:5), the psalmist declared thousands of years ago. Perhaps Israel has always known the secret of joy unlimited.
Posted on March 24, 2020
Source: (Bridges for Peace, March 24, 2020)
Photo Credit: Hannah Taylor/bridgesforpeace.com
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