The Jewish people have long sought self-determination in the midst of continuous persecution and oppression in foreign lands. In 1948, this hope was regained as Jews fled from the oppressive Diaspora to joyfully reunite in their homeland of Israel, a place where Jews have long dwelled but never obtained official statehood.

With the declaration of the creation of the Jewish state, Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, said, “We offer peace and neighborliness to all the neighboring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Hebrew nation for the common good of all” — an offer still intact today. As Israeli men, women and children celebrated in the streets dancing, singing and emotionally chanting the words of their new national anthem, their new neighbors, countries two-hundred times the size of Israel, invaded the ancient nation.

The Israelis fought back nine Arab armies with their hearts and souls, trying to maintain their precarious independence. The war eventually ended in a miraculous Israeli victory no statistician or military analyst was ever able to explain. Israel’s survival even today is much the same.

Ever since its war for independence, Israel has fought for its survival and security in a region of the world filled with intolerance for its Western and Jewish identity. With only 60 years of officially recognized existence, Israel, a country the size of New Jersey, has become a world leader in science, innovation, industry, environmental improvement, humanitarian aid, counter terrorism, human rights, democracy and peace.

Israel is home to extensive research and development of alternate and environmentally friendly energy sources, and it is a world leader for innovation in the solar energy field. In fact, Israel is the world’s largest per capita consumer of solar water heaters — itself an Israeli invention. Currently, Israel ranks in the top ten cleantech countries, places where research and innovation regarding environmental technology are most successful. For example, its Arrow Ecology company developed a high-tech system capable of separating organic and inorganic materials while sorting massive volumes of solid waste, reclaiming recyclables and turning the rest into biogas and rich agricultural fertilizers. This innovative system is used worldwide in countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Greece, Australia and Mexico. In addition to its numerous contributions to the environment and its dedication to science, Israel was the only country with a net gain in the number of trees at the start of the twenty-first century, a remarkable accomplishment considering its arid nature.

Israel is also a leading innovator in engineering which spans the fields of agriculture, aerospace and computers. As citizens of a Western nation, many of us have used a tremendous amount of Israeli-made technological products. The first cell phone, the Intel dual core micro chip, Windows NP, XP and Vista operating systems and instant messaging are all innovations developed in Israel. For the Xbox gamers out there: the Kinect is based on technology created by an Israeli company. And these are only a few of numerous Israeli contributions to modern society.

Israel is also one of the world-leading contributors in the field of medicine. Israeli scientists are responsible for the development of the first completely computerized diagnostic device for breast cancer that emits no radiation. In addition, it developed a pill-sized digital camera and other devices needed for non-surgical digital imaging of the gastrointestinal tract. Israel’s medical innovations are endless, and its devices and medicines are used internationally to treat patients in need of medical assistance.

Israel’s Save a Child’s Heart Foundation is a humanitarian organization dedicated to treating children all over the world with quality pediatric cardiac care that they cannot find in their home countries. Israel always contributes to humanitarian aid in the form of food, supplies, education, disaster recuperation, etc. Israel was the first country to set up a field hospital in Haiti after the disastrous earthquake and the only Middle Eastern country to lend a helping hand during the catastrophe. The Jewish state considers humanitarian aid to be its obligation to the international community. Its generosity sees no boundaries and is provided to those in need regardless of politics, citizenship, religious, racial or ethnic background.

Against all odds, Israel not only survives but lives to contribute to the progress of modernity.