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To put things into perspective, Israel's economy contracted by 1.7% in the first six months of this year. That's bad. In fact, most of the figures the Central Bureau of Statistics published for January-June were terrible. The business product contracted by 2.9%, exports tumbled 23% and imports decreased 30.3%. So why the smiles? Because the fall during the first half wasn't as hard as expected. And because the second-quarter figures were a lot better than forecast.

Just months ago the Finance Ministry and Bank of Israel thought the economy would contract 1.5% in 2009. Furthermore, other countries are doing far worse. The CBS figures indicate Israel will be leaving its troubles behind sooner than most other countries. But stay realistic. You may be allowed a quiver of optimism, but economies can surprise and the crisis still reigns. Don't forget that 1% growth means negative growth per capita. The second-quarter figures are based on estimates, which probably will change, and may dip downward. We may find we're moving in the right direction - but slowly, dear reader, slowly.