Baruch HaLevi
The Jewish values behind Entrepreneurism, Innovation & Technology

Discovering Diamonds in the Start-up Nation

Acres of Diamonds

There is a famous story called “Acres of Diamonds,” about a man in an African village who was visited by a traveller who told him of rumors that diamonds had been found across the river. This man became obsessed with discovering such diamonds, sold his home and wandered off in search of treasures.. After years of difficult and fruitless searching, destitute and in a state of desperation, he threw himself into the sea. Meanwhile, back at the home he had sold, with just a little bit of digging, the new owners discovered what would become known as the Golconda diamond farm and quite literally, acres of diamonds. The message is simple. The point is clear. Before we run off chasing after treasures out in the world, it’s always a good idea to first start digging where we stand.

Which brings me to “Start-Up Nation.”

The Start-Up Nation

For the past few years I have  been living within the “Start-Up Nation” and actively engaged on every level. I’ve spent time with hundreds of startups and corporations, accelerators and incubators, VCs, innovation-based organizations and R&D centers. In addition, I’ve met with countless co-founders, innovators, venture capitalists, researchers and government officials. I’ve led innovation tours to Israel, attended numerous conferences and been involved in multiple entrepreneurial efforts – always with one purpose in mind.

For me, it has always been about the “How”, “What” and above all else – “Why” behind the Start-Up Nation.    

How has Israel transformed itself, in a mere seventy years, from a country with 7 million dollars in annual exports in 1948 – mostly made up of oranges and dentures – to 2018 passing the $100 billion mark this year in exports – comprised of cyber-security, AI, drones and probably a few oranges as well.

What has Israel done to attract such a staggering amount of investment capital, more investment dollars flowing into Israel than all of Europe combined?

And above all else, Why? Why is this tiny slice of barren desert, in a really lousy neighborhood, flourishing as an innovation, technological and economic superpower?

Sure, many attribute the Israeli secret sauce to such things as, “chutzpah” or the “IDF” or the “biztuist – get things done,” mentality. However, as integral as each of these ingredients might be, there’s got to be something more profound at play. What if it comes down to the fact that the Start-Up Nation is not just any old nation, but the Jewish homeland, built upon Jewish peoplehood, Jewish hopes and Jewish blood, sweat and tears? Maybe Jewish history, culture, text, tradition and practice hold some of the keys to our understanding of how Israel has become a world leader in entrepreneurism, innovation and technological advancement?

What If

A while back I mentioned this to a young Israeli entrepreneur, named Assaf Luxembourg. Alongside his experience with entrepreneurship and startups, Assaf has been devoting his career to connect people to Israel through “Start-Up Nation”, and is somewhat of a brand ambassador of Israel, speaking to thousands of businessmen, investors, entrepreneurs, young professionals, students and others, both in Israel and around the world. When I shared this with Assaf his face lit up. Although Assaf would consider himself to be a secular Israeli, he has spent much time exploring these very ideas and is passionate about his Jewish identity, Jewish history and tradition, seeking to understand how it has informed and impacted the Jewish nation particularly regarding entrepreneurship. You can imagine – we hit it off. So we started brainstorming:

  • What if we connect the Bible, Jewish values, practice, traditions and wisdom with the areas of contemporary entrepreneurship, innovation and business?
  • What if we helped entrepreneurs, innovators and young professionals by adding value to their journey through Jewish wisdom and heritage?
  • What if we begin to explore the Start-Up Nation through this lens of Jewish values, beliefs and practice?

Acres of Diamonds

Within our Jewish communities we are searching for new ways to educate and inspire the next generation. Within our secular communities we are seeking means to overcome growing divides. Within our religious communities we are looking to build bridges of mutual understanding and respect. And within our pro-Israel communities we are desperate for new vehicles to promote Israel in a positive and unifying light.

What if we have the very thing to address each of these issues, connect across each of these communities, and bring to each and everyone of us some much needed insights and inspiration?

Well guess what? We have them. They’ve always been here, in front of us the whole time. All we have to do is stop wandering around out in the world for solutions, and start digging where we stand. There are acres of diamonds here in the Start-Up Nation, the Jewish homeland, waiting to be discovered right beneath our feet.

Let’s Start Digging

So that is what Assaf and I are exploring. We want to start digging down into the soil of Jewish history and culture, texts and traditions, beliefs and practices to unearth these diamonds.

  • Exploring the Bible through the lens of entrepreneurship
  • Understanding innovation from the perspective of Jewish values
  • Experiencing our business, investment and professional activities as a form of spiritual expression  

And we are thinking of doing it through:

  • Media (videos, podcasts, blogs)
  • Israel innovation trips
  • U.S. educational offerings
  • International gatherings
  • And many more…

What do you think?

However, as we get our shovels and picks ready to start digging, we’d love to hear from you. What do you think? What are you looking for? What would you like to see, hear and experience?

Should we dig for diamonds in the Start-Up Nation?

Should we dig for diamonds in the Start-Up Nation? Rabbi Baruch Halevi and Assaf Luxembourg. Credit: Assaf Luxembourg

See also: Biblepreneur: Unseized Opportunity by Assaf Luxembourg What do you think?

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Baruch HaLevi is the former rabbi of Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott and the CEO and co-founder of welaunch, a U.S.-based non-profit introducing Israeli technology start-ups to corporations, investors and research partners as a platform for economic development, Jewish community engagement and Israel innovation education. His most recent initiative, Tech-un Olam explores the role of Jewish values, texts, traditions and history in the rise of the Start-up Nation and entrepreneurism, innovation and technology. You can learn more at
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