Israel, 2014 in seven numbers (more or less)

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By christmasstockimages.com

2014 has been a long year. From ISIS to Ukraine to Boko Haram to Ebola, the year seems to have gone from bad to worse, and worse again. In Israel, we went from kidnapping and murder to war to lone wolf attacks, and a whole host of other things in between. As if that wasn’t enough, the year has tailed off with coalition collapse, a massive oil spill, and a major corruption scandal. But it wasn’t all bad, was it? Before we jump into 2015, here are seven numbers that give a taste of the year that just passed:  

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The Iron Dome in central Israel during the Gaza war. Photo from by Dekel E from Wikipedia

2 – The number of summertime military operations. The summer months in Israel were dominated by conflict. Operation Protective Edge, which started on July 8, was Israel’s third major conflict with Hamas since it withdrew from Gaza in 2005. At 50 days, it was also the longest and bloodiest of the three. Daily Israeli strikes and Hamas rockets claimed more than 2,000 Palestinian and more than 70 Israeli lives. Protective Edge dominated the headlines, but what about the operation that preceded it? Operation Brother’s Keeper started on June 13, the day after three Israeli teens were kidnapped in the West Bank. The teens’ bodies were found 18 days into the operation, and three months later, on September 23, the Israel Defense Forces killed the suspected captors in an exchange of fire in Hebron. Hundreds of Hamas members were arrested in field operations that weren’t always directly related to the abductees. Following the operation, the number of Palestinians held by Israel in administrative detention spiked, according to B’Tselem. Their latest figures put it at 473 in October, with 250 new administrative detention orders issued during Brothers Keeper.

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Voting in the January 2013 election

26The number of years since Israel’s Knesset served for a full, four-year term. With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition falling apart and the Knesset dissolving toward the end of 2014, the word “election” – now set for March 17 – has been on everyone’s lips. All told, since the state was founded, there have been 33 coalitions and 19 Knessets. The last full term served by the Knesset was in 1988, seven election cycles ago. This year, Israel’s parliament survived for 671 days. If you were wondering how the rate at which Israel swaps its leaders compares with other countries, since 1990 Israel has called an election every 2.8 years on average. This is less frequent than Greece and Japan, but more frequent than Spain, the U.K., the U.S., and at least 15 other countries, according to the Israel Democracy Institute.

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This Jewish Agency photo from 2010 shows Jews arriving to Israel from Kyrgyzstan. via Flickr.

23,400 – the number of Jews who immigrated to Israel. Despite the war, and the fact that it was preceded by the kidnapping and murders of the three teens and an East Jerusalem Palestinian, and the fact that it was followed by a series of lone wolf attacks and political instability to boot, some Jews from the Diaspora still decided to make Israel their home. According to the most recent Jewish Agency figures, from January through November, the largest proportion of these new immigrants came from France, and the second largest from Ukraine. Some 6,655 French Jews moved to Israel, an increase of 139 percent compared to last year. Some 5,105 Ukrainians moved to Israel – a jump of 160 percent. Meanwhile, 2,920 U.S. immigrants, an increase of 11 percent, made the move.

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Image of the Arava oil leak from MK Tamar Zandbergs’ Facebook page.

5,00,000roughly the number of liters of crude oil that spilled, or should that be gushed – in the Arava desert in southern Israel earlier this month, in what officials said was the most severe environmental disaster in the country’s history. Originally, the Environment Ministry estimated that between 1 and 3 million liters of black gold had leaked. The figure was revised to reflect the real extent of the damage, however, which can be seen in haunting photographs of the desert criss-crossed with streams of black. Another significant figure here is 5, the days it took for Netanyahu – currently acting Environment Minister – to visit the site of the disaster, as is 35, the minutes that his visit to the site lasted. Of course, don’t forget 17 million, the cost in shekels of rehabilitating the areas devastated by the spill.

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Screengrab from the Transparency International index

37Israel’s ranking in the world corruption index. 2014 has seen a long list of scandals involving Israeli officials. According to Transparency International, in 2014 Israel ranked 37 out of 175 countries when it comes to corruption levels. Dishonorable mentions of the past 12 months include former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert being sentenced to six years for taking bribes in the Holyland case, one of Israel’s largest-ever corruption scandals. Olmert is currently appealing the March conviction. Shout outs also go out to the mayors of Bat Yam and Ramat Gan, who were also investigated in corruption-related cases. To top it all off though, just this week police revealed that 30 public figures, including leading members of FM Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party, are being probed over another major corruption scandal. Not such a happy new year for the party, it seems.

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Dreidels for sale at Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem by Adiel lo on Wikipedia.

6 – The number of Guinness world records you probably didn’t know existed that were broken in Israel. There was the six-man team that completed the longest open sea group relay swim, swimming 380 km from Cyprus to Israel in four-to-five kilometer turns for six days. Then there was the world’s largest dreidel, that’s six metres tall, if you were wondering, and the largest number of dreidels (754) that have ever spun simultaneously. But even before those, there was the world’s largest Shabbat dinner in June, and in April, the world’s largest Mufleta for Passover. The icing on the cake precedes them all, however. In February, Former President Peres taught the world’s largest online civics class to some 9,000 high school students across the country. That’s right: There is a world record for the size of an online civics class.

And last but not least: 8,268,400 – Israel’s total population at the end of October, according to the latest figures available from the Central Bureau of Statistics. Many of whom will be spending their time between now and March 17 wondering who on earth they should vote for.

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