October 16, 2005

Winning the Nobel Prize is symptomatic of all that’s right with Israel.

Once again, I am proud to be Israeli. Proud, with no reservations, not a hint of shame, and no need to justify or defend myself.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem Prof. Robert (Israel) Aumann is the fourth Israeli Nobel laureate in the past four years, winning the 2005 Nobel Prize for Economics with American Prof. Thomas C. Schelling for work in Game Theory.

Few countries can boast such a run of exclusive prizes. Certainly no country as small as ours comes anywhere near Israel’s overall Nobel haul – three peace prizes, two for chemistry, two for economics, and one for literature.

And it’s only a matter of time until another one for literature comes our way.

There is good reason to be proud. That Hebrew University has won a Nobel amounts to international recognition for Israel’s entire scientific community. And the prize goes hand-in-hand with an atmosphere in Israel that – it must be said with reservation – encourages creativity, originality, profound thinking and independence.

The investment made during the 1980s and 90s in higher education and culture in Israel is now bearing fruit. ‘Israeli’ has become a positive adjective in such international circles as literature, poetry, film, painting and dance, in exact sciences such as mathematics and chemistry and humanities such as history and linguistics, in social sciences such as economics and diplomacy studies and administrative sciences such as operations research and information systems.

Israel, we are told by the Swedish National Academy, is also a force to be reckoned with in Game Theory. It’s not surprising. After all, what is Game Theory all about? It is a science that uses advanced mathematics to research an essentially Jewish fate: Making the best decisions under conditions of great uncertainty.

Prof. Aumann’s prize is yet more proof of this: Fully half of the Nobel prizes in economics have gone to Jews, from the first one (Paul Samuelson) to the last (Aumann.)

The Nobel laureate himself wins $1.3 million, but the prize is worth billions to our little country. By shining a spotlight on Israel, we get to showcase our riches to world elites, riches we sometimes don’t even realize we had.

And the true value of nations at the beginning of the 21st century is not in saving nature, but rather in strengthening independent thinking and creativity.

It is enough to look at the never-ending stream of foreign investment in Israeli science and scientists to understand that we have deep wells here indeed. Not in land, iron or walls, but rather brain power. This is the great advantage of this nation, and it is a competitive and existential advantage.

(Reprinted with permission from YnetNews.com)

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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