Turns out there's now a baby boom in the Galilee, the part of Israel that was hardest hit -- that is, shelled incessantly by Hizballah missiles -- in last summer's war. The medical director of a regional hospital says "the number of pregnancies among women in the North is 35 percent higher now than at this time in 2006." Something more than confinement accounts for it -- "Doctors, psychologists and sexologists explain that the 'mini-baby boom' was motivated by the determination that life must go on despite the war and to 'take revenge' on an enemy that wants to destroy Israel. Creating new life, said the experts, is a source of consolation and hope."
In other words, the war having occurred in July and August and the births having recently begun, the life-creating activity went on not just after the war, but during it. It is hard to imagine a more affirmative response to a 34-day barrage that killed 43 civilians and sent over 4,000 to hospitals for injuries and shock. It is also hard to come up with a more apt symbol for what Israel -- not to mention the Jewish people throughout history -- has been and is.
There was a time when Israel had a positive image as a place where people scarred by war and genocide idyllically picked oranges. But after the 1967 Six Day War the left-dominated media had had enough of it and turned the Palestinians into the apple of most of the world's eye.
It didn't help Israel much that it was diversifying its life-enhancing exports from oranges to cutting-edge agricultural, medical, and later, "hi" technology. Israel became a world leader in military technology, too -- but that was required to keep the rest of it going.
But in any case, the old image of a defiant, admirable country dissipated as the media love-affair with the Palestinians, complemented by Western countries' oil interests in the Arab world, intensified. The reality in Israel stayed the same; it remained a small, tough, vibrant, generative society in the face of aggression, though, regrettably, somewhat succumbing to the general mindset in the 1990s as it started chasing chimeras of peace with some of its deadliest enemies. But when the hollowness of those dreams became all too apparent -- as in the Palestinian terror waves and the Hizballah assault last summer -- the Israeli people, if not necessarily their leaders, showed the same fortitude as ever.
Speaking of our leaders, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has meanwhile decided to push Israel as a land of bikini beauties. A nine-person team from Maxim was recently in Tel Aviv to do a photo shoot that will appear in the magazine's June issue, to be followed by an article on tourism in Israel the next month. "All the surveys we have done," explained a relevant official at the Israeli consulate in New York, "show that [Israel's] biggest [PR] problem...is with males from the age of 18-35....[T]o change their perception of Israel as only a land of conflict, we want to present to them an Israel that interests them."
Israel's consul-general in New York chimed in: "I want people to think about beautiful people in beautiful places when they think of Israel, as well as see the diversity of Israeli society and culture. [Israel] is a vibrant and vivid place, and capturing this on the pages of America's biggest male magazine helps us reaffirm our brand in an important way."
Although the Maxim readers will no doubt like what they see, one wonders if it will really entice them to fly six thousand miles for something that's available on beaches just about anywhere else, or make them think differently of Israel as a place that must, after all, be pretty cool if that's what its babes look like. One also wonders if this idea of "promoting" our "brand" stems from the same place that led Israeli governments in the 1990s to show their Palestinian bona fides by bringing Yasser Arafat here from his decrepitude in Tunis to make peace with us.
How about, instead, featuring -- and not in Maxim -- the story of the current Galilee baby boom, accompanied by interviews with some of the new parents and photos of the region's natural and archeological glories? We have, after all, so much more to offer than babes -- not "sensualism" but life.