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Not just holy, but happy: Israel ranked 11th happiest country worldwide 

Israel improves its ranking from 2020 in survey of 149 nations

Young Jewish men celebrate Jerusalem Day around the Old City walls of Jerusalem, May 21, 2020. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

According to the newly released World Happiness Report 2021, Finland is once again the happiest country in the world. But Israel managed to climb three spots to a respectable 11th place out of a total of 149 countries.

Unsurprisingly, much of the focus of the report was on countries’ resilience during the coronavirus pandemic. Iceland was in second place, followed by Denmark and Switzerland. 

With the exception of New Zealand, European and especially Nordic countries dominated the top 10 list. 

In the 2020 report, the Jewish state ranked 14. Despite facing numerous challenges, including the coronavirus and being located in the volatile Middle East, Israel retained a top spot among the world’s happiest nations. 

The World Happiness Report is increasingly used as an alternative subjective method to measure well-being worldwide. Unlike strictly economic measures, the happiness report combines factors such as GDP per capita, life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, level of corruption, social support and generosity in a society. While all those factors have been seriously put to the test during the past year due to the pandemic, the report suggests that the world overall displays surprising resilience. 

Israel’s record during the pandemic has been mixed. While the Jewish state’s lightning speed vaccination program has made headlines worldwide, many Israelis have also been very critical of their government’s mishandling of the corona crisis. More than 6,000 Israelis have died and hundreds of thousands have lost their livelihoods because of three strict lockdowns. However, the report suggests that the majority of Israelis remain optimistic and happy with their lives. 

The United States, which has experienced more COVID-19 fatalities than any other country in the world, ranked 14, compared to 18 in 2020. In other words, despite more than half a million American COVID-19 fatalities, most Americans appear to be happier today than before the pandemic. By contrast, United Kingdom fell from the 13th to the 18th place.

If the findings in the report are correct, there does not seem to be an immediate link between happiness and COVID-19. For example, Japan, which has experienced far fewer coronavirus cases than the United States and the European countries, was only ranked 40 in the happiness index. In addition, South Korea, which has successfully confronted the pandemic, was only ranked number 50. India, the world’s largest democracy, came in at number 139. 

While wealth cannot buy happiness, an acceptable standard of living certainly contributes greatly to the perception of overall happiness. Unsurprisingly, the top 20 ranking is completely dominated by advanced Western-style democracies. Poor developing countries such as Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Botswana dominated the bottom of the list as the least happy nations in the world. 

While Israel was the highest ranked country in the Middle East, several other countries in the region performed well in the happiness index. Saudi Arabia was ranked 21 while Israel’s new peace partner, the United Arab Emirates, was ranked 27.

By contrast, Iran was ranked 77, Turkey 78, Morocco 80 and Egypt 87. War-torn Syria ranked 113.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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