News Digest — 3/20/24

Israelis Are The Fifth Happiest In The World Despite Ongoing War, Report Finds

Israel is ranked as the fifth happiest country in the world despite the war in Gaza and the October 7 massacre, according to the 2024 World Happiness Report, which was released on Wednesday (20th).

The publication ranks happiness on a national level each year.  This year, Israel earned the fifth spot out of 143 ranked countries, dropping only one spot from its ranking of fourth happiest last year,

This year’s ranking, as well as previous years, measured happiness and subjective well-being based on three factors: life evaluation, positive emotions, and negative emotions.

Life evaluations are measured by asking respondents to evaluate their life as a whole using the image of a ladder, with the best possible life for them as ten and the worst possible as zero.  Each respondent provides a numerical response on this scale, called the Cantril ladder.

Positive and negative emotions are measured by asking individuals yes or no questions about the following indicators: laughter, enjoyment, and interests for the positive – and worry, sadness and anger for the negative.

Israel secured the number five spot behind Finland, Denmark, Iceland and Sweden.

Other notable rankings from the survey include Iran at number 100 of 143, the “state of Palestine” at 103, Jordan at 125, Egypt at 127, Yemen at 133, Lebanon at 142, and Afghanistan in last place.

Happiness policy researcher at the Science, Technology, and Society Program at Bar-Ilan University, Anat Fanti, responded to the findings, saying, “Even this year, which was one of the most difficult in the country’s history, Israel ranked in the top five of the International Happiness Index.  The reason for this is that life satisfaction, the main index by which happiness is measured, is a stable index over time and refers to the characteristics of the country as a whole.”

“This means factors such as the economy, the degree of social involvement, and the health services in the country affect the ranking more than fleeting feelings.  To give a more accurate picture of happiness in all countries, the report’s editors refer to the average life satisfaction in the last three years when circulating the ranking.  Therefore, Israel’s ranking in fifth place in the happiness report marks the stability in life satisfaction in Israel over the last few years, even during the Corona period, which was traumatic all over the world, but it was also still possible to see that the top ten of the global happiness ranking includes more or less the same countries every year.”  

She added, “The data analysis shows that if the ranking were based only on this year, Israel would have fallen in the world happiness ranking as required by an event of this magnitude.  In addition to life satisfaction, the report examines the level of positive and negative emotions experienced by the population when the survey was conducted.”

“In the index of positive emotions, Israel dropped from 114th place to 123rd place.  This is indeed a decrease, but I assume that due to the incredible mobilization of the population, the decrease in positive feelings was less significant than expected.  On the other hand, in terms of negative feelings, Israel rose from 119 place to 60th place in the world, which reflects a dramatic increase in the level of negative feelings.  If the report data only showed October-November 2023 data, and not a three-year average, our negative sentiment rating would have been even higher as would be expected given the proximity of the sample performance to the events of October 7,” Fanti said.



 IDF Says Houthis Penetrated Eilat Missile Defense For First Time

The IDF late Tuesday night (19th) said for the first time that the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen had penetrated the country’s missile air defense.

According to the IDF, reports of an unidentified object landing north of Eilat on Sunday night (17th) was a cruise missile  which came from the direction of the Red Sea.

Although the IDF did not “specifically” identify the Houthis, the Iranian-backed group in Yemen has tried to strike Israel with ballistic missiles numerous times in months.

Until now, all of the missiles had been shot down by the Arrow 1 or 3 missile defense systems.

There was one case of a small drone fired from Syria penetrating into Eilat, but it did little damage.

In contrast, the cruise missile in question did not hit any structures and landed in an open area, but could have potentially done far more damage.

The IDF is probing why the missile was not shot down.

One possibility could be that it was a cruise missile that flies in a more line-drive fashion and which might have caught the air defense operators by surprise.

Israel’s David’s Sling is also made to shoot down such cruise missiles, but it has not been used in Eilat to date.



2 Shin Bet Officials Hurt, One Seriously In West Bank Shooting – Attacker Shot

Two members of the Shin Bet were wounded, one of them seriously, in a shooting attack in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, in the southern West Bank on Tuesday (19th), the security agency and the military said.

The attack took place between the settlement of Migdal Oz and the Gush Etzion Junction.

The Shin Bet said the gunman opened fire at the two officers, who were carrying out routine security operations in the area.

The pair returned fire at the gunman, “neutralizing” him, the Shin Bet and Israel defense forces said.  The injured officers were taken to the hospital in Jerusalem for treatment.

The gunman was identified by the Shin Bet as Ziad Hamran, 30,  from the West Bank city of Jenin.

One of the officers was listed in serious but stable condition, while the second was slightly hurt, Shaare Zedek Medical Center  in Jerusalem said.

The shooting came as security forces in Jerusalem and the West Bank have been on high-alert since Ramadan started last week.  Tensions were already high between Israelis and Palestinians due to the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, triggered by the October 7 massacre, which saw Hamas terrorists murder about 1,200 people, mostly civilians and kidnap 253.

Palestinians say over 400 people have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank since hostilities broke out, while carrying out attacks or during clashes with IDF troops during nightly raids that have largely concentrated on a handful of areas in the West Bank.  According to the IDF, the dead fighters were armed terrorists.



Report: Lebanese Academic Criticizes Hezbollah For Dragging Country Into War; Gets Detained

Lebanese academic and political analyst Makram Rabah was detained by Lebanese security forces for five hours for criticizing Hezbollah’s presence in the Baalbek region, according to a report by the Saudi-based English newspaper Arab News on Monday (18th),

Rabah recently appeared in an interview on Lebanese television in which he criticized Hezbollah for using the Baalbek region for their operations, which puts civilians in danger.

Rabah said, “Israel does not view the city of Baalbek as a Lebanese city: It is part of Hezbollah’s supply lines that may affect it in its next war.”

“We, as Lebanese, will not be spared from a major Israeli strike because Hezbollah is the one that provoked Israel,” he added.

He also stated that, in his view, Hezbollah was not ready to fight a war against Israel.

“Our country is incapable of fighting a war, which is in dire need of a better economic situation.  The Israelis are in a constant state of monitoring and attacking military targets whenever they want, and Hezbollah can only use its drones to film weddings,” he said.

According to the report, he also criticized the terrorist organization for conducting secret meetings in the Lebanese capital with representatives of Hamas, the Houthis, and IRGC chief commander Esmail Qaani without Lebanese state and security officials being aware of them.

Makram Rabah posted on X on Sunday (17th), announcing that he was summoned before the General Security Investigation Department for “distraction and resistance.”

The interrogation was allegedly due to “providing information in the interview  regarding Hezbollah locations, which were considered coordinates for the enemy.”  Rabah replied to this claim, saying that no information he had discussed had been published in local and foreign media.

But a Military judge detained Rabah for refusing to comply and provide his cell phone.

After a few hours, Rabah was released but was still considered “under investigation.”

After his release, Rabah said: “If I were a Captagon (usually called the Jihadi drug) dealer like Hezbollah, investigative Judge Fadi Akiki would not have dared to detain me. The Lebanese constitution preserves my right to express my opinion.”



Pro-Palestinian Mobs Force Jewish Events Underground

Since the outbreak of the Hamas war, pro-Palestinian activists across the U.S. have threatened and harassed organizers and attendees of events linked to Israel and the Jewish community.

Restaurants serving Israeli food or owned by Israelis, concerts by a pro-Israeli singer, and even charity events with Israeli patrons have all been subject to intimidation campaigns and even physical violence.

In response, organizers have been forced to keep key event details, like the exact time or location, under wraps until the last possible second, as well as screen people interested in purchasing tickets.

Israeli-born Erez Safar learned this lesson the hard way, when a New York city comedy show he had organized to raise money for victims of Hamas’ October 7th onslaught was deluged by pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

Before the show, Safar took precautions, such as requiring the purchase of a ticket and an RSVP before being informed about the location, in order to protect the event.

“We were completely like, ‘No chance we can leak this location,’”Safar told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency .

“Even buying tickets, we didn’t make [purchasing] available [to the general public]… so you had to [send me a direct message], and then I was vetting people and then sending them a link.”

Safar said that keeping the details a secret until the last minute was “a little fun,” as it adds to the excitement before an event.  However, he added that it is “depressing and ridiculously sad that we have to do this.”

But despite his efforts to protect the show from disruption, pro-Palestinian activists still found out about the event.  A large crowd stood outside the theater, calling attendees “Nazi scum” and “Zionist freaks,”

The protesters also distributed fliers with text that said “no matter where they are, they shall not know peace.”

He added that the pro-Palestinian mob who picketed his event had failed in its mission, as the aggression caused the Jewish and Israeli community to grow even closer and support each other.

“Their entire point was to stop it, ruin it, whatever, but it kind of did the opposite, so it just brought us all together,” Safar told JTA.

“I think if anything, it almost helped that night to get to the level of flipping that really dark energy they displayed into this insane amount of light.”



We Are All “Settlers” Now  – Leo Dee

The Gazans had independence for almost 20 years, after Israel evacuated the 10,000 Jews living in Gush Katif in 2005.  They have enjoyed self-rule and billions of dollars of foreign aid since the Disengagement, with UNRWA-funded schools and Qatari-funded mosques and hospitals.

By attacking Israeli kibbutzim and launching heavy missile attacks into Ashdod, Ashkelon and Tel Aviv, the Gazans made something very clear.  They regard every Israeli as a “settler.”  This should not have been so surprising since Palestinians and their supporters have been calling for a Palestinian state “from the river to the sea” for many decades, a term that defines the entire State of Israel as their rightful homeland.

We are all “settlers” now.  Hamas has made clear that they see no difference between any type of Israelis.

Rabbi Leo Dee is Israel’s Special Envoy for Social Initiatives.  His wife Lucy and daughters Maia and Rina were murdered by Palestinian terrorists in April 2023.  (Jerusalem Post)



Hamas Fighters Will Continue Fighting As Long As They Have Hope – Ron Ben-Yishai

The Hamas operatives who returned to hide in Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital wrongly assumed that Israel, facing massive international pressure, would not dare to respond, even if it found out about their presence there.

Hamas won’t surrender.  Its fighters will try to survive as long as they have hope and sporadically engage in guerrilla warfare against the IDF in Gaza.  This could take months, compelling the IDF to firm up its security hold on areas where Hamas’ military capacity has been dismantled.

This scenario mirrors the aftermath of Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 in the West Bank: the IDF entered Palestinian cities and towns, but pockets of resistance and terrorist cells remained active until 2004 when the resistance waned.  In fact, the IDF’s “mowing the grass” tactic continues there to this day.  Surviving Hamas terrorists will continue engaging IDF forces for a long time, and it’s important to acknowledge this reality.

Hamas survives because its leaders and operatives believe global public opinion will soon end IDF action.  The Israeli government must approach the U.S. and Western allies to clarify that their calls for an immediate ceasefire encourages Hamas not to surrender,  prolonging the war and the suffering of the population.  (Ynet News)