• Jodi Samuels

Searching For Happiness



We spent Pesach in South Africa with Gavin and my families. The hot topic of conversation in South Africa is immigration – who is leaving South Africa and who is staying. My parents have one child in New York, one in Sydney, Australia and one in Johannesburg. Gavin’s parents have one child in New York, one in Toronto, one in London, and only his sister lives in South Africa. There are so many families where if they are lucky have one child in South Africa. Many of my parents’ friends have no kids living in South Africa and grandchildren that they hopefully see once a year.


At one of the yom tov meals, we were discussing why Israelis rate themselves so much higher than the US in happiness and quality of life surveys. In the Wall St Journal Survey Israel ranked 3rd and the US 46th on a global self-reported happiness scale. And this despite wars, threats of hostile neighbors and compulsory military service.


My theory for this remarkable finding, amongst others, is that Israel is a family-centric society. People in Israel live no more than a few hours from their families and even the most secular families regularly have three generations of the extended family meet on a Saturday on Tel Aviv beach or a Friday night dinner. Last summer we were stayed at an Israeli friend’s parents for Shabbat. A modest family, a modest house yet the parents were beaming with happiness – five of their grown and married children and over 20 grandchildren were at their home for Shabbat dinner. How many South African families have this? I know my Father would trade in his fancy house and fancy cars in Johannesburg if he could see his grandchildren each week. Many people in the US leave home at age 17 and often live at great distances from their family seeing each other on Thanksgiving and the High Holidays


As I landed yesterday there was a link in my inbox to an article entitled, “Why is Israel so happy?” http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4214341,00.html Israel ranked 14th in the United Nation’s first World Happiness Report. I then attended last night’s premier of the movie, “Israel Inside” www.isrealinsidethemovie.com hosted by www.stepupforisrael.com and Jerusalem Online University. The movie is excellent and everyone should see it. It also answers the question why Israeli’s are so happy and how a small nation can achieve so much. The movie discussed the factors contributing to Israel’s success. We as Moms can learn from the six principles discussed in the movie including: Family, Adversity to Advantage, Chutzpah, Education, Taking Action and Responsibility to the World.


According to the movie families provide us the confidence to fulfill our potential. Confidence is the ability to hold onto our beliefs and to have the resilience and the conviction to pursue our goals, aspirations and dreams. Israelis are blessed with a supportive family environment that permeates Israeli society.


We all are looking for happiness but perhaps we are looking in the wrong places. We tend to be outward looking when seeking a blissful life. Could it be that the magic we need can be found within those who should be closest to us – emotionally and geographically? Our family……..


Originally published: April 17, 2012

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