WVPA Sharing

Opinion: What West Virginia can learn from Israel

Reflections on Trip to Holy Land

By Senate President Mitch Carmichael

I was blessed recently with the opportunity to visit the Holy Land. The trip, sponsored by the American Israeli Education PAC (AIEP), was an opportunity for me and 18 other political and religious leaders from across America to meet and learn from our friends in Israel.

W.Va. Senate President Mitch Carmichael

A trip to this region evokes powerful emotions from a spiritual, religious, and geo-political perspective. There are few places on earth that stir up passion the way that Israel does: the breathtaking beauty of its hills and valleys, the quite stillness of the Dead Sea, and the ancient walls of the temple in Jerusalem where Jesus taught.

To set foot on the ground that Jesus walked is an awe-inspiring experience that is hard to put in words and impossible to forget. The experience left me changed: more mindful of the eternal, but also more committed to be of service during the time I have on earth. 

The spiritual devotion of the Muslims, Christians, and Jews who live there runs through every facet of life, and there is a complex interplay between the political, religious, and secular threads of the country, interwoven with ever-present concerns about security and national defense.  

In addition to the Israel’s unique political and religious environment, I was struck by the vibrancy and resiliency of its economy. There is so much that West Virginia can learn from the Israeli attitude toward economic growth. 

The Israelis’ single-minded focus on success, without any accommodation or sympathy to the possibility of failure, is evidence of a can-do orientation. There appears to be little hand-wringing over their obstacles; rather, there is a total and complete immersion in the solutions that will ensure success. 

When its fresh water supplies were threatened, Israel built and perfected the world’s largest desalinization plant to turn sea water into drinking water. In an arid climate not conducive to farming, Israeli farmers revolutionized irrigation practices and made their land among the most productive in the world. 

Because Israel has virtually no oil or natural gas, it has developed the world’s most efficient methods for using those scarce resources. The country has few of the natural inputs that are used for manufacturing, so it has become one of the world’s foremost technology innovators. 

In short, the state of Israel doesn’t allow excuses or impediments to deter it from success and prosperity. Failure isn’t an option. Ensuring that its people will survive and thrive is the nation’s most fundamental and profound responsibility.

Israel daily wages a struggle for its very survival. It faces hostile neighbors with numerically superior armed forces and contends with constant threats of terrorism. Yet, through its people’s ingenuity and by God’s grace, it continues to thrive.

Here at home, we also have a unique array of hurdles to overcome. But our problems are very different from the existential threats facing Israel. 

West Virginia is showing signs of real growth, even as we continue to struggle with the challenges of diversifying our economy, loss of population, drug abuse, poor road infrastructure, and an underperforming public education system. 

These are serious impediments to growth and prosperity. But to put it into stark perspective: No foreign alliance is massed on our borders with an ambition to destroy us. No army is launching rockets onto our lands. 

Compared to the nation of Israel, the state of West Virginia has incredible blessings. We have been given bountiful natural resources: abundant water, coal, gas, and arable land. We live at peace with our neighbors and reside in the strongest, most prosperous country on earth. 

And we have some of the most resourceful, biggest-hearted, hardest-working citizens on the planet. We are a people who carved communities out of mountains and mined the fuel to power a mighty nation.

West Virginia’s obstacles are real. But we don’t have to let them determine the scope of our dreams. I believe that we were made for so much more, and blessed by our God to achieve great things in this world. 

Let’s wisely use the gifts we have been given. Let’s confront our challenges with a single-minded purpose that instills confidence in the future of our great state. 

Instead of reaching for excuses where we fall short, let’s face our problems with the attitude that we will can clear these hurdles and do better for our citizens – because we must.

My visit to the Holy Land has instilled in me a conviction that problems are just circumstances awaiting an innovative solution. I’m home in West Virginia with a renewed motivation to buckle down and work collaboratively on the problems we face. 

Pulling together, with the gifts we have been given, I know we can make our state a shining example of revitalization, opportunity, and hope for our nation and our world.

Senator Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson) is President of the West Virginia Senate and Lieutenant Governor of West Virginia.

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