The ‘Rega’ Nation

December 6, 2011 by Raffe Gold
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Standard reading for anyone interested in Israel is the fantastic book ‘Start-Up Nation’…writes Raffe Gold.

Raffe Gold

The book details Israel’s rapid developments in the fields of science and technology, agriculture and business despite the country, since its founding, having been in an almost constant state of war and under the threat of terror. The book has been touted by Israeli leaders, diaspora communities and commentators as an example of how the plucky little Jewish State has been able to overcome adversity and make the desert bloom.

Yet there is one issue where Israel is far from the ‘start-up nation’. The hopes of its founders that it would be a beacon to the world of  human rights and equal opportunities. In this arena, Israel is criticised externally and internally as very much a ‘rega nation’. ‘Rega’: the quintessentially Israeli word is Hebrew for ‘wait a moment’. It perfectly describes Israel’s attitude to domestic politics. From the earliest moments of Israel’s foundation, when it was forced to face down multiple Arab armies, anything that did not have to do with surviving the existential crisis that Israel found itself in was put on the back-burner and that attitude has survived until today.

Since its battle for creation, and the immediate threat to its existence, the Rega Nation has been forced to struggle against the genocidal aims of Nasser and his dreams of pan-Arabia, the terror onslaught of Arafat’s intifada, and the racist and immoral BDS campaign. With its capacity to rise above any threat,  there is little doubt that eventually it will survive Ahmadinejad, the Mullahs of Iran and their nuclear threat.

So what will Israel be when we have no external enemies to fight? Will Israelis turn on themselves in a series of  religious, civil, cultural and economic internecine struggles?

Have we for too long accepted the Rega Nation as our default position. Have we prepared ourselves for the day when we will have no enemy to fight?

The Rega Nation has managed to survive under impossible odds for 63 years and the fact that it has managed to contribute to the world, in technology and science, in arts and culture, in law and society, is a testament to our ability to cope in such a high pressure environment. Jews have always managed to defy the odds, from our exodus in Egypt, to our two millennia wandering in diaspora. to the expulsion from Spain, the pogroms in Europe, culminating in the Holocaust. We have always been able to survive when facing our enemies. It doesn’t matter who fights us; be they Arab, English, French, Russian, Ukrainian or Poles, we are able to overcome and eventually prosper. When our homeland was reborn in 1948 we bested the vastly more numerous Arab armies and sacrificed our blood when they promised that they would push us into the sea; as Golda Meir once said “our secret weapon with the Arabs is that we have no where else to go”. For years Israel represented the quintessentially Jewish ability to overcome all that life throws at you but it did so at a terrible loss to its domestic lifestyle.

Today Israel is the poorest member of the OECD. We have shockingly low salaries, yawning social gaps and now civil disputations between the government and its citizens over basic human rights such as the ability to afford housing, food and rent. These problems are felt in all sectors of the economy. Recently the Israeli government was criticized by American Jewish groups for airing a series of ads asking its citizens not to inter-marry with US Jews for fear of their children growing up assimilated and un-Israeli. But can one truly blame a parent who only wants the best for their child? One can always love Israel from afar, it is what strengthens and bonds Diaspora communities worldwide, but to live here is an incredibly difficult challenge.

The Rega Nation must take its ingenuity that it has developed in science and technology and divert it into social justice and human rights. It has to ensure that its people are able to live here comfortably and safely and not have to choose between food and rent. Accepting the external challenge from Arabia and Iran, we now have to look internally and make life more equitable for our citizens.

The Rega Nation has to improve the standard of living for minorities and majorities. It has to institute reforms so we are not held at the mercy of big business and it has to ensure that a peace agreement is formed with our neighbors to help usher in the new era of prosperity.

Israel has lived under constant threat since her creation. Everyone remembers the major wars that she has fought and it is far too easy to forget the skirmishes and the covert battles that become footnotes in a history book. However these skirmishes, a rocket fired here or an Iranian bellicose statement there, reinforce the Rega mentality and ensure that pressing domestic issues are left for another day. It is not Israel’s fault that this thought process has become the mainstream as it would happen to any one. But Israel’s story is one of overcoming odds in the face of adversity. Let us not abandon our domestic issues to be handled by some future government. Rather; let us face down our existential crises and ensure that once we have overcome whichever General, Mullah or terrorist wants to slaughter the Jews this week, the Jews look at their homeland with pride in all aspects of life.

Raffe Gold is a recent immigrant to Israel from Australia. He can be contacted at




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