Rupert Murdoch: Israel in the World is a ‘testimony to the Israelis’ incredible originality, dynamism and entrepreneurship.’When foreign dignitaries arrive in Israel or make an official visit to an Israeli consulate or embassy in their own country, they always receive a gift from their Israeli counterpart – something that will imbue the spirit of Israel in a unique and memorable way.
Well, the hottest gift of this season, and likely for many more to come, is the recently published coffee table book ISRAEL IN THE WORLD – Changing Lives Through Innovation – published in London by Weidenfeld & Nicholson.
Written by the British husband and wife journalistic team of Helen and Douglas Davis, the book is an outstanding testament to Israel’s accomplishments. And we’re not talking here about falafel and the hora.
According to the jacket description, “In little more than half a century, Israel has developed a vibrant democracy, a sophisticated industrial infrastructure, a dynamic economy, and a unique cultural voice. It has also acquired a reputation for cutting-edge innovation across a wide range of disciplines – from science and technology to agriculture, medicine, education and the arts. The beneficial results of Israel’s creative energies are felt at home, but they are also felt beyond its shores. This book offers a brief glimpse of just some of the people, products and processes, the technologies and systems, that are enhancing the lives of millions of people in virtually every corner of the world.”
Based in part on stories originally printed on ISRAEL21c, the book is described by publishing magnate Rupert Murdoch in his introduction as a “testimony to the Israelis’ incredible originality, dynamism and entrepreneurship.”
Even before publication earlier this year, the book began making a buzz. According to one of the financial backers of the project, the Israeli government ordered 2000 copies right off the bat and other pro-Israel organizations have followed suit. A first printing of 8000 sold out immediately and the book is already into its third printing
“It’s actually quite exciting. Until now, Israel has allowed itself to be defined by the conflict, and people that want to be advocates for her are mainly presenting a defensive argument. This enables Israel to start redefining itself and to go on the offensive instead of allowing other people to define it and being forced to respond defensively,” said the backer.
Divided into chapter headings Medicine, Science & Technology, Agriculture, Society, and Outreach, the book succeeds in presenting technical information, but personalizes it with the people behind the miracles.
“One problem we encountered was what we had to leave out,” co-author Helen Davis told ISRAEL21c. “We could have written 10 books. We had to try and convey the breadth of Israeli innovation across many fields when we could have written separate books about each field.”
The London-based Davises have strong credentials to write a book about Israel. Helen, who was born in New Zealand, lived in Israel for 10 years, where she worked for the magazine Israel Scene. Douglas, spent that period as a senior editor of The Jerusalem Post, and is now the paper’s London correspondent.
“This little country is simply unique among the countries which came to independence in the post-colonial area – there’s no comparison – not in terms of self sufficiency but in its contribution to the global marketplace. And why that happened is fascinating,” said Douglas.
“We have a deep connection to Israel, and we wanted to convey the incredible achievements of this little place. We were delighted to do something that wasn’t about politics and the conflict. I thought we knew everything about Israeli society, but we completely underestimated the unbelievable variety and extent of Israeli creativity,” added Helen.
Among the highlights of the book are essays on the research of Dr. Michal Schwartz of the Weizmann Institute of Science – who has discovered that cells in the body’s own immune system were actually part of the solution for repairing and renewing damaged nerve fibers in spinal cord injuries, the story behind the revolutionary ‘camera-in-a-pill’ of Given Imaging, the amazing success stories of IBM-Israel, Intel-Israel and Checkpoint, and the section on Israeli programs and relief efforts in the Third World.
“We wanted to mix things in that have been already established in the marketplace – to give some sense of the innovation coming out of the labs and incubators. But we also tried to tackle the underlying question – what makes Israeli society so unbelievably innovative? What started out to be straightforward turned out to be very complicated,” said Helen.
While researching the book, the Davises – with their vast knowledge of the country and the people – still came away with new perspectives on Israeli achievements and ingenuity.
“I was impressed with the phenomenal intellectual energy that Israelis generate, there’s so much argument, debate and inquiry going on all the time, so much being published. It’s an incredibly rich field,” said Douglas. “And when you see this creative energy poured into new technologies, it’s astounding.”
“I found the burgeoning sense of Israeli responsibility for the world outside its borders to be inspirational,” added Helen. “There’s an incredible growth of Israeli NGOs and individuals who want to make a difference in the world – it’s a mix of Israeli idealism, energy and chutzpa, confidence and can-do optimism.”
The success of ISRAEL IN THE WORLD has buoyed the Douglas’s spirits and confirmed their hunch that the time was right for a pro-Israel advocacy approach that left the conflict at the starting gate.
“We’re tapping into a niche – as ISRAEL21c has – where there’s a tremendous hunger for things about Israel beyond the conflict. People are saturated with the conflict about which they can do nothing,” said Helen.
“We’ve been taken aback by the response, and the gratitude. People have contacted us saying, ‘gee, I didn’t know that?’
“We’d love to do a second edition – We see the new stories on ISRAEL21c and go ‘we’d love to have had that one’.”
If ISRAEL IN THEWORLD keeps selling like hotcakes, then a second edition will not only be a possibility, it will become a necessity.