I’ve just returned to Israel from the snow covered, arctic wastes of the northeastern United States and Canada. As the Beatles once said, “gee, it’s good to be back home”.
But oh what fun it was to be abroad, to listen, to represent Israel and to invite all and sundry to visit Israel and hear their reactions.
As I’ve explained before, there seems to be a push to make Israelis fearful we are facing some kind of avalanche of isolation from the outside world. To scare us into believing unless we change our ways, nobody will like us any more. Somehow we’re made to believe Israeli lives will be embittered by concerted world boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions movements (BDSM). What a load of rubbish.
A long time ago I wrote how a random security checkpoint delayed my return home from a concert. Just another minor inconvenience that all of us here in Israel suffer from time to time. We don’t really whine about it like others would.
But sometimes good things come of these security checks: last year at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly I found myself queuing at the security checkpoint for the Prime Minister’s speech alongside OurCrowd’s VP for Business Development, Audrey Jacobs. Having previously worked with Israeli Advocacy group StandWithUs, she knew of my writing and invited me to an OurCrowd event at the King David hotel in Jerusalem.
OurCrowd is a little over a year old and allows individual accredited investors worldwide to identify, research and invest in Israel’s leading startups. They are a merger of the best bits of a publicly accessible crowdfunding platform like KickStarter, individual angel investing and a fully fledged Venture Capital fund. At the end of their first year, they’d already invested more than $35m in more than 30 Israeli start-up firms. Sitting in one of their investor events is like being a Dragon in the TV Show “Dragon’s Den”.
So when I saw they would be holding an event in New York while I was in town, I signed up. The event was beautifully organised and held at their law partner’s offices in the iconic Met Life building right above Grand Central Terminal. Greenberg Traurig LLP and OurCrowd laid out a perfect kosher New York deli lunch (of course).
Greenberg Traurig LLP is an international law firm and were keen to stress the firm’s commitment to Israel and helping Israeli firms with international legal work.
OurCrowd’s founder, Jon Medved, fresh from a number of speeches at AIPAC, introduced OurCrowd to a range of both existing investors and people new to the whole concept. Then followed presentations from three firms currently raising money: a security company that fights cyber threats using cognitive behavioural profiling, a software company for managing big data and clouds for enterprises and mobile platform for the conference world. The big data company are notable as OurCrowd is beginning to expand beyond Israeli companies: they clearly appreciate Israeli help with their fund raising.
I spoke with many people attending: some Jews, some non-Jews but all absolutely positive Israel is the place to turn to for exciting growth and development. This was a room buzzing with positive energy toward our Jewish state from people who feel there is a torrent of positive ideas flowing out of this land. Clearly, only fools would boycott Israel and to their own very great detriment.
The security company in particular stood out: yet another brilliant new idea in computer security stemming from Israel’s dominance in this field. Of course the founders of the firm got their start in the IDF’s ultra elite signals intelligence unit, 8200. Their ideas and software for protecting your online login identity could rapidly sweep the industry and foil fraudsters.
The overwhelmingly positive feeling toward Israel extended to other spheres: I like to tell people I’m from Israel and see their reaction. I always encourage people to come and visit. On this trip, as is often the case, I encountered very few negative reactions. I know the negative is out there but I don’t seek it and it rarely finds me.
So as the Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron, arrives in Israel, also stressing high tech cooperation, we find the benefits of trade with Israel are too great for anyone sane to overlook. And even if we’re led to believe the EU foreign policy team wants to punish Israel (while embarrassing itself smiling with the Iranian terror overlords) individual EU countries, companies and people can’t bring themselves to turn down the benefits of working with Israel.
No matter how I look at it, the massive noise generated by global PR campaigns against Israel is not widely matched by negative feelings on the ground, especially in North America. So many people either have no firm views or are easily swayed by the positive that flows from Israel.
This is not the time to give up on our beliefs and sink into a funk: Israel is a gift to the world and I know the doomsayers are lying.
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