Israel’s influence transcends many fields: technology, life-science, homeland security.From exporting olives and Jaffa oranges Israel is now exporting Olive Software and designing new platforms for Orange Phones. During the last decade, the Internet revolution freed Israel from its agricultural dependence and allowed it to focus on becoming one of the leading technology nations in the world.
During a Hillel Business and Technology Mission to Israel, I was fortunate to explore this theme with students from an assortment of US and Canadian universities. Here are a few facts I established.
The concept of the ‘American Dream’ is alive in Israel
Israeli teenagers graduate school with the hope of someday forming the next great startup. On average, more than one new business is brought to fruition (through venture funding) every single day. Opportunities for success and advancement are not limited by one?s gender, background or race.
During a visit to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, we met with the deputy assistant to the Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni ? both whom are female, as are many of the employees at that most prestigious workplace. Another example is Hadassah Medical Center which employs many thriving female physicians.
It is also common for business to have a number of languages spoken from various ethnicities. Moreover, immigrants are equally allowed a piece of Israel?s economy and one leading venture capitalist stated he would take an employee that is making aliyah over another Israeli to help that citizen adjust to their new life. Try to find that level of immigration acceptance in any other country.
Israel is an economy of empowerment
During our trip we learned about the planeloads of Russian immigrants that made aliya to Israel in the 1980s. Most of them were well-educated yet poor, stuck in a persecuting society with barriers to opportunity. Many held minor janitorial or clerical jobs. In Israel, those same Russian workers are now given great opportunities: creating software companies, solving unique mathematical problems, advancing academia at leading universities.
Israel’s greatest natural resource is the education of its population
One example of that is the fact that Israel has more engineers per capita than any other nation in the world. Or the fact that Hebrew University beats Harvard in revenue it receives from patents annually and that several Israeli academics have won the highly selective Nobel Prizes during the last few years. During a visit to the William Davidson School at the Technion, we saw some of Israel’s most innovative minds focused on finding solutions to a few of the challenges that plaque our world.
Israel places a high value on education and that is seen through the plentiful opportunities for advanced learning that it offers. Though its land lacks the lucrative natural resource of the larger Middle East economy, a rich culture and intelligent society is one resource that will never run dry.
Israel’s leading industries are focusing on solving worthwhile problems
This is the most meaningful characteristic of the modern Israeli economy. Soldiers in the army learn how to be quick, impromptu thinkers and that helps them solve short term problems. After their service, they use their intelligence to cultivate ideas in the world beyond the military. This includes applications which increase food harvests to new technology that can make colonoscopies less invasive.
Israel is now on the forefront in finding solutions for the water crisis that its region faces. And many of the products that now protect the United States were first designed and tested in Israel.
A flat world only elevates Israel
As the world has become more globalized, routes have opened for emerging countries like Israel to find success. At the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, its chairman spoke to us about Israeli companies that are now doing business all around the world. These companies can be invested in Israel even as they attain most of their profits and growth outside the country.
Now that Israel has a more resourceful economy, it has opportunities to leverage new partnerships. Most commonly these partnerships are through trade, and they are almost always mutually beneficial with other countries. This has allowed ties to be formed with groups that previously would not have a reason to do business with such a small nation. And when Israel supports foreign companies, those countries end up reciprocating by investing in Israeli goods and services.
Not a single executive that spoke to our group dwelled on the dangers of doing business in Israel or their fear of terrorism. Israel?s economy is strong because its people are strong. They are filled with passion, courage, discipline and conviction. They have an inherent belief in their right to exist as, by far, the freest land in the Middle East. More than a unique and special economy, Israel is embodied by a unique and special people.
Today, Israel has influence far beyond the arts; transcending many fields: technology, life-science, homeland security. Yet not too long ago Israel’s economy was a starving artist. Now, it is a booming symphony; allowing businesses to be more productive, countries to be better defended and humans to survive longer and healthier lives. That should be music to any savvy investor’s ear.