Someone recently asked me about my hopes for the new millennium. While I’m getting a little tired of all this millennium business, still, the question got me thinking. I’d like to rephrase it: In the year 2999, what would I like schoolchildren to be writing on their history exams about their millennium? Here is my view of a high school student’s A paper in history.
At the turn of the millennium, Israel finally made peace with its neighbors. A corrupt Palestinian government, headed by terrorist Yasir Arafat was ousted by democratic vote, and the Palestinian people elected a government sincerely devoted to its needs. As a result, there was a tremendous improvement in their economic status, health care, and educational opportunities. Muslim extremists were publicly denounced and the Hamas and Jihad movements disappeared. The murder of Arab women for “family honor” was outlawed by a new generation of educated, moderate Muslim religious leaders, and virtually disappeared from the society.
Palestinians and Israelis began a long-term cooperative economic and social relationship which proved a model for international cooperation. Israel, at peace for the first time in its existence with all its neighbors, was able to concentrate its national energies on social needs.
The tax burden, once amongst the highest in the world, with over fifty percent of all earnings being paid out in income taxes, was slashed, and government bureaucracy, which had long prevented foreign investment, was completely overhauled. As a result, Israel became an investor’s paradise.
Its economic growth was unprecedented in world history, accompanied by the world’s lowest rate of unemployment and the highest per capita income in the world. Huge sections of the country were rebuilt, with housing given out free to all young couples. Free monorail systems replaced dangerous, outdated highways for private cars, and traffic accidents, once a major cause of death and serious injury, became nonexistent.
State-of-the- art hospitals were built, and preventive health care education became widespread, reducing the number of Israelis needing hospitalization and increasing life expectancy to 120 for males, and 150 for females.
Israel’s educational system, a major beneficiary of the diversion of funds from military spending, set world standards. Its pay packages for teachers made them the highest paid professionals in the country, creating competition among the country’s brightest and most creative people for coveted teaching positions in the country’s school system. Students enjoyed brand new elementary and high school campuses, which replaced worn out, often dangerous school buildings. The school day was lengthened, with supplementary classes in art, dance, literature, and sports free to all children wishing to participate. Free, unlimited tutoring became available to all children. As a result, Israel became the first country in the world to have a zero-percent dropout rate, with 100% of all students graduating and going on to higher education. Free university education became the right of every qualified student.
Israel’s pool of professionals attracted further investment, fueling its continued economic growth. A side effect of this was the disappearance of racial stereotypes and pockets of poverty. An example often pointed to was the transformation of the formerly impoverished border town of Kiryat Shmona, which became a world leader in biological and genetic engineering. Its laboratories wiped out such diseases as cancer, AIDS, muscular dystrophy, and virtually every other genetically-transmitted disease known to humanity.
In the religious world, Jewish leaders convened the Sanhedrin for the first time since the destruction of the Jewish Temple. One of the first acts of the supreme religious Jewish body was to establish new takkanot that changed the wedding ceremony, giving women equal rights to dissolve a marriage, and making it against Jewish law for any Rabbi to perform a wedding ceremony without signing the couple on a pre-nuptial agreement that prevented such horrors of the past as extortion of women by husbands in exchange for granting a get; child custody battles; and uneven distribution of marital assets.
A new takkana, based on the interpretation of Rav Huna by Rav Yona B. Avraham in his book “Gates of Repentance,” made the cutting off of a wife-beater’s hands mandatory. As a result, this crime was wiped out. Like the laws of the rebellious son, Rabbis never actually had to enforce this ruling (student note: Not sure. May they did, once or twice? )
Their second act was to make it obligatory for all Talmud scholars to learn a trade or profession so that they never accepted any money for their scholarship, as stipulated by the heretofore ignored opinion of the sage Maimonides.
Their third act was to abolish the strange law preventing certain Jewish sects from eating rice and beans (kitniyot) on Passover.
As a result of these decrees, there were no more agunot or abused women in Israel, no more impoverished families among Talmud scholars , and no more labels on Israel products saying: “Kosher for Passover only for those who eat kitniyot.”
On a personal note, as a Jewish high school senior living in my own country, the wonderful, beautiful Land of Israel, which has been at peace for almost a thousand years, I would like to say I feel really grateful to have been born in this millennium. It must have been terrible for my poor ancestors.