As we launch Israel’s 60th birthday year, the glass is much more full than empty.As Rosh Hashana approaches, Israelis can step back and reflect on the year that was, and pinch ourselves. We’re still here!

The summer war (Lebanon Part II) that was supposed to take place never materialized. Instead, tourism to Israel returned with a vengeance, reaching levels of pre-2000 Intifada. You couldn’t walk down a street in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv without seeing massive tour groups, hearing English, and getting swept up in the jovial atmosphere.

That doesn’t mean that a war won’t break out next month – but it does mean that Israelis weren’t sitting around waiting for doom. They were out having fun and enjoying the 90 degree plus sunny weather that’s a staple here from June through August.

Vacationing near Nahariya last week – the target of many Katyusha attacks during the war last summer – I was struck by the hustle and bustle, the ‘normalcy’ and the resilience of the residents. If war was looming over their heads, they sure weren’t showing it.

That was the feeling farther south as well – film festivals, music festivals, sporting events and arts and crafts fairs around the country were all packed with attendees, basking in the cultural mosaic that makes up the Israeli landscape.

Israelis didn’t spend the past year just out on the beaches or at concerts – the year also saw the country’s economy booming. Data released last week by the Central Bureau of Statistics indicates that Israel’s GDP soared during the first half of the year 6.6 percent. And that means good news not only for Israelis, but for everyone, as innovative technologies continued to emerge from the incubators and startup that provide the breeding ground for the country’s future.

Deep Breeze Medical Diagnosis received FDA approval for their revolutionary Vibration Response Imaging (VRI), a noninvasive, radiation-free imaging system which uses lung sounds to create dynamic images of the lungs. This ‘ultrasound’ for the lungs is going to help millions of people around the world with the early diagnosis of lung diseases.

Another Israeli device was also approved by the FDA for use in the US – the Velashape cellulite treatment device developed by Israeli company Syneron Medical Ltd. which can temporarily remove unsightly cellulite. (Good one since we’re spending so much time on the beaches).

And in one of many high profile visits to the country this year, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison in his first trip here, praised Israel’s technological success and resourceful manpower, saying that “Israel has always had a wealth of intellectual talent.”

Looking ahead to a new, cleaner environmental future, Israeli holding company, Israel Corp. has decided to invest $100 million to produce a new electric car. The project is being spearheaded by innovative Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi, who left German software maker SAP to focus on environmental policy and alternative energy.

Looking outward, our policy of helping other countries in need continued unabated, with most recently Israel sending teams to help rescue efforts following an earthquake in Peru and to help fight the devastating forest fires in Greece.

There’s no shortage of topics to be concerned about in this country – among others, our soldiers are still being held by Hizbullah and Hamas, Sderot and other southern communities are still under attack by Kassam rockets fired by Palestinian terror groups, the number of Israelis under the poverty line is ridiculously high, the problem of dealing with the refugees from Darfur has not been solved, and you’re still putting your life on the line when you get into a car.

But, as we enter the year of Israel’s 60th birthday, there is reason to believe that the glass is much more full than empty. We at ISRAEL21c pledge to continue providing the coverage of the news that makes up the volume of that glass.

With our stories now being regularly translated into French, Spanish, German, Russian, and yes, Hebrew, people all around the world are learning about the innovations that Israel brings to their lives.

On behalf of the board and staff of ISRAEL21c, our best wishes for a ‘Shana Tova’.