Israel isn’t a tragic nation, it’s one of the most highly educated and technologically advanced nations on Earth.
Over the weekend I read Start-Up Nation, the new book about why Israel has emerged as a global leader in high-tech. Even if its authors Dan Senor and Saul Singer were not my friends, I would still say this book is the best ad for Israel in recent memory. Sidestepping the usual discussion of Israel as an embattled nation, it focuses instead on the invincible ingenuity of the Israeli people, and their vast technological contribution to the global economy. Where the Israeli army is discussed, the focus is not on soldiers chasing down terrorists but on how the Israeli military serves as a commercial networking tool for soldiers. So the book both informs and inspires.
Am I the only one tired of hearing only bad news about Jews and Israel? Remember the old joke about the Jew who loves reading anti-Semitic magazines? When asked why he says, “When I read Jewish newspapers, all I hear is that we’re hated. When I read the anti-Semitic alternatives, they tell me we run the world!”
Israel is not a victim. Less so is it a tragic nation. Rather, as Start-Up Nation makes clear, Israel today is one of the most highly educated and technologically advanced nations on Earth, with one of the planet’s fastest-growing economies. It’s time that Jewish papers and periodicals stop with the tired, worn stories predicting Israel’s imminent demise.
True, Israel has implacable, terrorist enemies, and yes, Iran is building a bomb which is an existential threat. That’s all mighty serious stuff.
But is that all there is to the modern Jewish story? Is there not also a story of breathtaking success? If only the world could hear about Israeli universities ranking in the top 10, of its growing number of Nobel Prize winners, of Andy Grove, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates rushing to invest in Israel and how a crazy percentage of the world’s computer chips are manufactured in the Jewish state.
Revealing Israel’s potential
The time has come for world Jewry to see Israel as the place where the limitless potential of the Jewish people is finally being made manifest. All we needed was for people to get out of our way, and just look at how we thrive. And we prosper not as a self-absorbed nation but as a people who make vast contributions to all of mankind.
In light of this, it is time for Israel to consider forgoing American economic aid. I understand the military aid; the country has an insane number of crazies who wish to destroy it. But the economic aid creates an unnecessary dependency, undermines the perception of Israel as a prosperous country and gives the US undue influence over Israeli policy. Surely we all believe that decisions governing Israel’s right to defend itself should be taken by the Israeli prime minister rather than the American president.
There is more.
Many a Jew has wondered aloud why the Arabs got all the oil and Israel got none. What could God have been thinking in making despots and dictators like the Saudis and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi so insanely rich, while Israel has to struggle for every shekel it earns?
Only now to do we see the truth. Oil is the greatest curse ever to befall the Arabs.
A constant struggle
By simply digging a hole and having money flow from the ground, the Arab states had little incentive to build universities or a high-tech industry. And when the day comes – and it will – when the world finally finds an alternative energy source, these despotic regimes will collapse, returning to the sand from which they arose.
This isn’t rocket science. All of us know at least one rich friend whose kids don’t have to work, and who consequently became indolent. Israel has had to struggle for everything it has. No country has ever been more unjustly reviled or more continuously attacked.
Conversely, no country better inspires the world to ponder the infinite capacity of humans to rise from the ashes of despair and build a shining state on a hill.
Israel still has a lot of problems and a lot of enemies; it must remain hyper vigilant.
But it is time for the other side of the story to be told as well.
It is time that more books like Start-Up Nation begin to focus on Israel’s colossal achievements.
Shmuley Boteach, founder of This World: The Values Network, has just published The Blessing of Enough and The Michael Jackson Tapes.
Published courtesy of The Jerusalem Post.