The sad truth behind Israeli ‘happiness’

People wear Israeli flags as they take part in celebrations marking Israel’s 71st Independence Day in Jerusalem, May 8, 2019. (credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)
How can a country that administers constant violence and suffers deep inequalities be ranked the fourth happiest in the world?

By Asaf Calderon | +972 Magazine |  Apr 17, 2023

That there is a huge discrepancy between Israeli citizens and occupied Palestinians is no surprise…

Here’s a strange headline: in the 2023 World Happiness Report, Israel is ranked the fourth happiest country on the planet. We are bested only by the Finns, Danes, and Icelanders, and leave the Dutch, Swedes, and Norwegians in the dust. It is an impressive result at any time, and all the more so while hundreds of thousands of Israelis are on the streets showing just how unhappy they are with their current far-right government.

On the surface, it is remarkable that a country whose citizens are constantly exposed to (and administering) violence, suffering from deep economic and racial inequalities, and facing unprecedented instability — a country recently declared by its own president to be “at the edge of the abyss” — made it even into the top half of the list. So how do we explain this?

Could it be, as suggested in the Jerusalem Post, that “people can personally be happy and satisfied, even though at a national level they may feel that there are dark clouds everywhere”? Perhaps if the sun is bright enough and the hummus delicious enough, happiness can be found even at the edge of the abyss? Maybe. Perhaps the attempt to objectively and quantitatively measure national happiness based on a small sample size is a pointless endeavor to begin with, and this apparent anomaly simply proves that? More likely. But the results are nevertheless interesting, and they merit a deeper look.

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