The most powerful, influential and lasting global changes have often resulted from the proliferation of new technology. I mean not to acclaim innovation as stemming from novel ideas per se, as all new ideas, from the discovery of fire to the first PC microprocessor, are simply a new, unique synthesis of older ideas and techniques. As Sir Isaac Newton wrote, “If I have seen further, it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants,” exploring the concept that every idea is merely a reorganization of previous revelations (BBC “Moving”) (Note 1).
To quantify the likelihood of innovation (Note 2), there is a direct relationship between an innovator’s education and risk-taking tendencies and his or her environment. Thus, an educated innovator is best off in an intelligent, ambitious, risk-taking, and resilient community. Otherwise, the weaknesses of the innovator or his or her community, would nearly always cancel out the benefits of the other.
In many cases, an educated (Note 3) innovator may be intrinsically motivated to utilize his or her learning to solve contemporary problems using alternative methods. Nevertheless, many educated people who know how to solve a certain problem don’t actually do anything about it. They stop, whether or not their idea actually works, because they don’t want to dedicate their lives to it, they’re afraid of failure, or others discourage them. Even in discussing this very concept with my peers, teachers, and family members, I’ve learned of novel business ideas that have never flourished, simply because people don’t want to take the entrepreneurial jump. I’ve learned of reveries of house gutters with Christmas lights already installed, and in a variety of colors, suitable for the entire year; thermal-controlled cases for musical instruments, in order to maintain instruments’ intonation, regardless of the climate in which they’re played; and bandage-like facial tape that would uproot blackheads. Despite how potentially ingenious these ideas are, many educated people with steady careers never throw their fiscal lives into a world of the entrepreneurial unknown.
Nevertheless, spread across the world are a few communities in which potential innovators rarely abandon their ideas, or, at least, not as often as anywhere else. These are places that regularly host more flourishing startups per capita than nearly every other community in the world.
These are the communities that define and later defy our standard of living.
Thus, the purpose of this essay is to explore how these communities develop and, by example, enumerate a few of the necessary traits that aspiring communities should emulate. Using Israel, a nation with more startups, scientists, and engineers per capita than any other, as a case study (Note 4), I intend to define what it takes to become a world-changing, innovative society (ISRAEL21c; King). Throughout this introduction, I will enumerate the various characteristics of innovative communities, foreshadowing the subjects and the cruxes of innovation that I will explore, each in its own section, in this essay.
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Firstly, it is imperative for an innovative community to be composed of educated citizens. This is not to say that a formal education system is the only route towards learning, though it may make for an easier process. In a society, the only way for people to solve problems efficiently and effectively is for them to be educated, to have a bank of knowledge and wield the necessary problem-solving strategies for potential roadblocks. Moreover, if only a select percentage of citizens are educated, then they may not possess the privilege of communication with fellow educated people, and they may find themselves lost in the labyrinth of limited perspectives; unable to consult with educated people, they lose the potential of combining already expansive knowledge banks to effectively solve problems. Take Finland, for instance. In a country with 100% literacy, the Finnish national education system focuses on expanding extracurriculars and electives, in order to let its students explore subjects in which they’re interested and inspired (Choi). As a result, according to ArchDaily, Finnish architecture is commonly judged as nearly the best in the world (AD Editorial Team). Overall, the world’s technological masterpieces are pursued when a variety of educated perspectives join together, in attempts to solve the problems of their existence.
Additionally, an often-overlooked ingredient of innovation is equality for an entire community. When a government or a similarly pervasive source allows for a specific sub-populace to experience systematic privilege, its members are likely to feel complacent, knowing that their lives are already better than most. Thus, that subset may see no need for a better future, and never even begin to preoccupy themselves with the worries of innovation for problems that don’t actually seem so bad. Conversely, the subjugated subset, a potential resource for innovation, faces a minimized likelihood of entrepreneurial success. Therefore, if only a selection of a community’s population is oppressed, the greater effects of innovative disability hit both the privileged and nonprivileged sub-populace. Conversely, a primary factor in instilling innovation is ending institutionalized privilege. We see this phenomenon presently in Qatar, a nation in which women work in horrid conditions and are frequently exploited, as, despite its oil-fueled riches, its populace files very few patents per year—only 61 in 2012, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization—compared to nearly any other fiscally comparable nation, reflecting the nearly whole absence of innovative spirit (Amnesty International; Jacobs; World Intellectual Property Organization 33). Thus, when a subset of any population experiences tremendous privilege, it nearly always comes with the cost of losing potential for innovation.
Moreover, there are many other communal characteristics, unrelated to institutionalized privilege, that instill complacency within a people, like the communal privilege of living on a land free of natural disasters. For example, in most of the world, architects have never needed to contemplate how to construct on a faultline, a geographical expanse prone to earthquakes, as most people simply do not live on faultlines. In fact, only when civilizations began to form around modern-day San Francisco, Istanbul, Mexico City, and Tokyo have architects strategized against the phenomena of toppling buildings (Exploratorium). Now, according to Emeritus Professor of Civil Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Dr. Tushar K. Datta, most buildings established near fault lines stand atop a base isolation system, a layer between buildings’ foundation and base, in order to maintain their integrity during earthquakes (369). In order for people to innovate, to solve the problems of their experience, they must feel intrinsically driven to utilize their own resources; otherwise, even if they explore new ideas for improving upon their standard of living, the likelihood that they actually implement those ideas is minimized.
Competition also plays a significant role in limiting communal complacency. In the modern technology market, for example, it is imperative for individual companies to always strive to surpass their competition, in order to maintain and, perhaps, augment, their market share. Innovation is mandatory; otherwise, they would all go bankrupt. Additionally, the innovative advantages of competition can be extrapolated to national trends. During the Cold War, for example, technological innovation within America skyrocketed, best exemplified in Dr. Gordon E. Moore’s conjecture in 1965 that, every two years, as the price of technology drops and its availability widens, the number of transistors within a dense integrated circuit will double (84) (Note 5). While nationalistic competition may not have been the sole cause for the drastic technological innovation during that time period—The National Defense Education Act of 1958, augmenting funding towards schools and universities throughout the nation most likely played a large role as well—there is certainly much to be said for a community self-driven to outperform its peers, especially in eras of potential danger.
Nevertheless, the mere formulation of ideas is only the first step toward innovation and is often ruled worthless by the ordeal of the second: implementation. Transforming thoughts into legitimate businesses and practices requires intense resilience through numerous phases of development, funding to continue the process, and creativity from the innovator. For the innovator, this translates to the willingness necessary to forever alter the life he or she leads, perhaps, in order to continue to adapt his or her product until eventual proliferation. While this may seem to be merely shifting one’s mindset, this necessary resilience often lies in the hands of his or her peers; innovators almost exclusively arise from communities that encourage their entrepreneurial escapades, that, perhaps, fund some of the experiments or simply don’t encourage the innovator to give up. On the contrary, innovators within entrepreneurially adverse communities may avoid risking the resources it would take to let new ideas blossom; they may feel the economic burden lie entirely on themselves; or they may even be advised not to throw away steady professions for an unknown result, ending the process with only a few words. Thus, in order to implement ideas, an innovator must be both intrinsically motivated to see his or her product flourish, and his or her community must legitimately support him or her enough to continue, be that in subsidizing startup costs or any other aid technique.
Lastly, necessary to innovation is the product’s staying power, its ability to be attractive enough to a large enough audience, the group that often provides a majority of the post-creation funding. If a work of innovation doesn’t have the potential to popularize, the creators will majoritally halt production to save face before investing in a relatively worthless endeavor.
This essay is an attempt to gather and quantify the ingredients for an innovative community. Although this is not an exhaustive analysis of every potential cause for innovation, I weave vignettes, statistics, and examples of policy through a variety of potential explanations as to why the Israeli economy is such an anomaly, and why it would behoove many other nations to follow its example.
Enlisting in Innovation Training
In the dead of a dry, starlit, summer night, I stepped across parched grass with a 19-year-old soldier named Elijah (Note 6). His uniform was speckled with mud and a few food stains from the week’s patrol, and its top buttons were undone. Every weekend, Elijah transfers between three different buses in order to return from his station in the Golan Heights, where he works with 30 other Israelis from all over the country, to his abode in the Darom, Israel’s southern, desert-filled, scarcely populated region, travelling hours to reach a small moshav (Note 7) named Shekef. He had just finished Shabbat dinner with his family when he walked to the community playground for the teenage boys’ unofficial weekly hangout.
“There are no girls here,” he told me. “I don’t know how we got it to be this way, but Shekef’s a small place. We have to go to the next town over to see at least a few, but all of them are taken.”
Thus, as one boy withdrew the rolling paper from his satchel and another opened a ziplock bag, a picnic table of six adolescents enjoyed their weekly traditions, as well. But Elijah stood alone, maintaining a healthy and friendly distance from any undesired substances, delighting in the presence of his friends, but not partaking. I walked across the concrete towards him and asked him what the song was that people were singing so loudly, over in the next town. Silently, he motioned for me to walk with him, and, 15 meters away, we stood atop a field of malnourished grass, facing a collection of newly blossoming crops, the silhouettes of a ten-foot cement wall blockading a small urban community, worn mountains behind them, and an array of stars across the midnight sky, unabashed by the nearly complete lack of artificial light within a radius of hundreds of kilometers.
The music I’d heard was the welcoming prayer for Muslims in the adjacent Palestinian town. A single man’s voice exploring double harmonic minor scales echoed through the skies five times everyday, and it has always been, to the Shekef populace, the aural equivalent to a train passing or church bells ringing.
Elijah gazed ahead, his face somber, and took in a slow, deep breath, exhaling for several seconds. He gently closed his eyes for a moment, ruminating on memories with which I was unfamiliar, before I questioned him in tired Hebrew, staring exclusively at the dirt-covered medals on his shoulder, “Have you ever killed a man?”
He looked to the field ahead of us, his eyes gradually rising to the cement wall, then to the roofs of the Palestinian town, until his eyes turned to me, nearly peering through my face altogether, contemplating whether or not he trusted an—albeit jet-lagged—American teenage boy asking him questions that provoked memories he may have never wanted to relive. “You don’t have to answer that if you don’t want to. I’m sorry,” I muttered.
In a contemplative silence, he surveyed once more the silhouette of the Palestinian village ahead of us, removing a single cigarette from his left pants pocket and a lighter from his right. With his hand shaking, after a few attempts to ignite his lighter, he lit the cigarette. As he gently balanced the cigarette between his right thumb and index finger, he slowly and uncomfortably placed his lighter back from where he’d originally withdrawn it.
“I was in the auxiliary unit, lying stomach-down on a cliff near a small village in the Judea and Samaria (Note 8), looking through the sights of my gun. The infantrymen ran in; we’d rehearsed the drill for days already. At this point, they were inside the building, and an Arab man, a Palestinian, outside the place was holding a weapon, a bomb or something. He had faded blue jeans and a red shirt. My commander knelt down next to me, tapped my left shoulder twice, slowly, and asked me, ‘The guy in the blue jeans and the red shirt, you see him?’ I nodded, knowing what would have to come next. ‘Shoot him; shoot him, now,” he told me.’ I breathed in for a few seconds, centered the sights, closed my eyes for a brief moment, and pulled the trigger. When I opened my eyes, he was on the ground, and people, Arabs, were running away from the area, hiding behind trees and cars. The infantrymen, within a few moments, ran out of the building, did what they needed to do, and, and, I don’t really remember the rest, but I know that his red shirt got darker,” Elijah shut his eyes, exhaled unevenly, and remained still for a moment, his cigarette just a few centimeters from his chest.
A new moment of silence. We both gazed towards the concrete wall dividing Shekef from the neighboring Palestinian town. “You know, I didn’t have to shoot the guy. I really had three options when my commander told me to shoot. If I genuinely thought I shouldn’t have, if this guy wasn’t doing anything wrong and there was no reason to kill him—if I thought my commander was crazy—I could have said ‘no’ and just continued to wait for the moment in which I’d actually need to do something. If I thought that this guy didn’t need to die and we could continue the mission in peace, but I understood my commander’s thought process, I would have killed the guy. I wouldn’t have wanted to, but I would have done it anyway. But neither of those cases happened that night. I saw the man and I knew it wouldn’t go well if he’d stayed alive, if he’d used his weapon. I, I needed to do it. When my commander told me to, I knew it was right. So, I did it.
“After the mission, we all talked together in a debriefing meeting. We went over every single thing that happened. Including the guy. The guy in the blue jeans and the red shirt. If I’d decided not to shoot him, we would have talked a lot about that. A fierce argument between my commander and me, because we’d need to agree on something, on a way we could make the mission better in the future, to learn from what we did and put it into our future missions,” Elijah took another long, deep breath.
“I was thinking the entire time,” he added. “I knew that what he told me to do was right. I saw the guy. I knew I had to, that it was the opportune moment. And, I did it. And that was it.”
In the dead of a dry, starlit, summer night, standing atop parched grass, a soldier named Elijah felt tears stream across his face, as he stared only at the cement wall ahead of him.
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After high school, Israeli teens face conscription for two to three years, before beginning a university education or career. Five days a week, they stay with their platoons, pursuing missions, training, or providing security in various venues throughout the country. Every Thursday afternoon, just like Elijah, they return home to rest before the next Sunday morning, when they journey back to repeat the cycle. Unlike many militaries, though, as evident in Elijah’s vignette, Israeli soldiers, regardless of title, uphold the liberty of choice throughout their entire military careers, the ability to accept or reject a commander’s ideas, rather than simply executing orders blindly. This near absence of ideological and rank-based hierarchy is evident in the words of Amos Goren, a past Israeli commando and seasoned venture capital investor, “During [my service], I never saluted anybody, ever. And I wasn’t even an officer. I was just a rank and file soldier” (qtd. in Senor and Singer 50). Ergo, soldiers, regardless of rank, must consistently analyze their decisions and contemplate their decisions at every moment, forcing them to abandon the mantra that superiors always know best, provided that the soldiers can defend their position. Thus, perpetually permeating the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is a culture of questioning and a meritocracy to rule all its members.
With this command style, recent high school graduates maintain and expand upon the critical thinking and questioning skills they formed during years of formal education. By the time they enter universities or begin their careers, Israeli citizens possess the skills and determination, often absent among people of similar ages anywhere else in the world, to lead others, adopt more efficient techniques, and solve problems effectively.
Furthermore, the IDF’s demography plays a crucial role in advancing each soldier’s economic viability. For example, because Israel is so small, the Israeli military cannot logistically function hierarchically. With only just over eight million people, it simply cannot enlist enough people to possess the privilege of hierarchy; there are too few people within the military for it to maintain numerous levels of leadership. Instead, young soldiers with only a year or two of experience often hold positions of leadership voided for American military members until much later. As past IDF Liaison Michael Oren stated, “The Israeli Lieutenant probably has greater command decision latitude than his [or her] counterpart in any army in the world” (qtd. in Senor and Singer 44). Although unintended, simply due to the structure of the IDF, new generations learn incredible, economically viable skills, ensuring that, before soldiers leave their mandatory service for the national workforce, they are trained to make decisions and execute them quickly, efficiently, and effectively.
The institutional advancement of soldiers’ skills does not stop at the IDF’s nonhierarchical structure, however; ambiguous commands often play a large role, as well. For most grandiose operations, superiors will generally give ambiguous directions to their officers, forcing new soldiers to plan and execute intricate missions with limited guidance. Additionally, when plans go awry, the strategy of ambiguous commands charges these young soldiers to alter plans and execute new ones, in order to complete their mission (Israel Defense Forces). So, when soldiers finish their service, they’ll have developed many of the skills that it takes to become a successful entrepreneur in a startup; with little outside help, they can find the best result in their situation in the quickest, most effective way and act upon their ideas, changing their business plans until they reach success.
Moreover, as Israel generally faces many more threats to local and national security than most other militaries, the Israeli military operates at nearly full capacity, rarely giving soldiers opportunities to be idle. Thus, as Elijah’s experience can confirm, Israeli soldiers experience nearly constant exposure to lessons in questioning, critical thinking, and improvisation. By the time Israelis enter universities or new careers, many have experiences that most others, at their age, could never even dream to replicate.
Israeli platoons are typically geographically diverse, exposing soldiers to people from all over the country and allowing them to reconcile varied perspectives from a heterogeneous community. Additionally, for many men, after they complete their three years of service, they must return to the military for three weeks every year until age 40, as part of training to be part of the reserves. In terms of economic advantages, the reserves function both to maintain the nation’s security and the nation’s web of connections. It is a perpetual business network for recent graduates looking for employment and Israeli employers scouring for well-suited applicants who are able to lead others, improvise, and execute plans quickly and efficiently. Not to mention, the reserves provide an easy avenue for technology to diffuse across the country in a three-week exposure, leaving no subcommunity out of reach. In fact, Israel, as of 2011, upholds a cell phone penetration rate of approximately 130 percent (Israel Ministry of Communications). Consequently, by connecting several heterogeneous subsets of the Israeli populace every year, providing both a natural business network across Israel and aide in the nearly perpetual technological diffusion, reserves ultimately serve as a human-powered battery to keep the Israeli economy moving forward.
Another benefit to the geographically and socioeconomically diverse makeup of the IDF is its extensive military-sponsored coursework in medicine and engineering, accompanying the IDF’s inherent leadership training (Katz; Garin Mahal). Thus, with informal and formal education available to nearly every soldier, the IDF serves as a powerful, equalizing boost for the Israeli populace, giving everyone the opportunity to advance their fiscal viability. In essence, while educational inequality will always persist throughout Israel, the military provides for a universal apprenticeship program for all citizens, regardless of socioeconomic standing.
Additionally, business leaders in Israel are well aware of just how well the IDF trains its soldiers job-applicable skills. With such widespread access to the training the IDF provides, according to New York Times columnist Rothman-Zecher, most employers exclusively hire candidates with a history of military service (A19). In the words of Gil Kerbs, an alumnus of the IDF’s intelligence unit, “In Israel, one’s academic past is somehow less important than the military past. One of the questions asked in every job interview is, Where did you serve in the army?” (qtd. in Senor and Singer 69). While the nearly universal access to alternative education greatly aids many Israeli veterans in finding employment, it also comes with a price for conscientious objectors, Israeli Arabs, and Haredim (Note 9) who aren’t obligated to serve: the repercussions of avoiding the military manifest themselves in the limited economic opportunities of the future. Nevertheless, the draft’s numerous fiscal benefits for those who do enlist still provide a great asset to the Israeli economy overall.
While the IDF is certainly one of the many factors that explain Israel’s culture of innovation, the ability of nearly every Israeli citizen to expand upon his or her questioning, critical thinking, and improvisational skills years before entering a university substantially advances Israeli citizens’ economic viability, giving them unforgettable experiences, incomprehensible to the outside world. As an automatic business network, the IDF helps soldiers far beyond their conscription duty. However, these experiences need not remain exclusively Israeli; many tactics used in the IDF are easily transferrable, such as restricting hierarchy, encouraging discussion, and instilling power in young recruits. Although most nations intentionally avoid other facets of the IDF, like its policy of military conscription, replicating militaries to be more like the IDF may bring forth innumerable economic advantages to the global economy.
Educating for Innovation
Within Israel, schooling is mandated for all citizens until age 18, and after conscription, tuition at some of the world’s greatest universities is available for nearly $2,600 per year, at today’s rates (Skop). Compared to the average cost of only textbooks and supplies for the American collegiate consumer, $1,200, Israel, from the start, operates on better fiscal footing (The College Board). Hence, generations of Israelis, at a cost appealing to nearly everyone, experience a rigorous and competitive academic upbringing; afterwards, they may apply their knowledge and skills in business, with only an average of approximately $10,730 of debt (Ziri). In comparison, Americans of the same age suffer from an average of $29,000 of debt, with a default rate of 13.7 percent (Ellis; U.S. Department of Education). Relating these rising student debts to entrepreneurial viability, Brent W. Ambrose, Professor of Risk Management and Real Estate at Pennsylvania State University, and Larry Cordell and Shuwei Ma, of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank, college graduates with high debt are much less likely than those without debt to form startup businesses: “Given the importance of an entrepreneur’s personal debt capacity in financing a startup business, student loan debt, which cannot be discharged via bankruptcy, can have lasting effects later in life and may impact the ability of future small-business owners to raise capital.” Thus, with comparably minimal debt to pay off after completing their studies, Israeli university graduates are ready to enter the workforce to apply their knowledge and their skills in a setting based upon finding new solutions, without their academic pasts dragging behind them, minimizing their potential.
Communal education is critical to all innovation. Although Israel has a long way to go until all of its citizens begin to follow Shai Agassi’s example and use their academic upbringing to create and manufacture the next fully electric car with his startup, A Better Place, the Israeli government’s philosophy on education has benefited thousands of citizens and, with their new discoveries, may, one day, change the lives of millions more (Agassi).
The Ramifications of a Desert Expanse
To travel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on a Sunday morning, the beginning and busiest moment of the Israeli workweek (Note 10), it takes approximately 90 minutes to two hours. With only 50.65 kilometers between the state’s two largest metropolitan cities, in a nation the approximate size of New Jersey, Israel is, by definition, a business cluster (The Economist). In modern Israel, this translates into minimal financial and time allowances for excess transportation cost in traveling amongst businesses and corporate headquarters across the country. As well, by increasing the potential for business leaders and entrepreneurs to communicate, it ideally leads to newer and greater ideas for better products and practices, as a fruit of communication. Clearly, most nations attempt to augment their geographical expanse for fairly obvious reasons. Yet, Israel’s geographic expanse, as one of the world’s smallest countries fixed nearly entirely on a desert, has advanced Israel’s economic potential far more than most would have imagined 65 years ago. Furthermore, the opportunities to emulate it may not be too out of reach.
Every day, in the Israeli cluster, businesspeople glean opportunities to spend a significantly higher percentage of their budget on improving their actual products, rather than on plane tickets and hotel rooms. Thus, the chance to dedicate a higher percentage of a company’s budget on product improvement—or, inversely, the ability to operate a new business with fewer unrelated startup expenses—can be critical in instilling innovation within any company. Simply, as the geography of Israel minimizes many of the initial fiscal risks of forming a new business, it’s more likely for innovators to be willing to shell out more money in tangibilizing their ideas.
Although Israel’s geographic limitations are not characteristics for which any national leader would strive, they do a give a strong fiscal advantage to many Israeli businesses’ budgets. Not to mention, the Israeli technology cluster may be more replicable than many naysayers contend. Despite disparities in the two clusters’ governments, Silicon Valley and Israel aren’t too different, after all (Regalado). Taking over northern California is a cohort of high-tech companies, each facing limited travel expenses and a high potential for communication amongst businesses, even if, in attempts to remain secret, corporations tend to keep to themselves. Contemporarily, Silicon valley is the only area in the world with a higher innovative index than Israel, filing nearly 15,000 new patents in 2012 alone (Joint Venture and Silicon Valley Community Foundation), the most patent-dense area within the United States by far (Greenberg). Thus, while the mere geography of Silicon Valley cannot be seen as the sole cause for its successes in innovation, the financial cluster in which all of the Israeli technology industry (Note 11) functions can be reproduced, simply by communities of like-minded innovators agreeing to live near each other.
Operating on Ambition: The Fight Against Systematic Complacency
If an innovator can potentially solve a problem, but doesn’t view the problem as important enough into which he or she should invest time, the problem will not be solved. Thus, it is to community leaders’ best interests—at least, in the realm of innovation—to limit their populace’s complacency, in an attempt to always encourage communities to strive for greater success in innovation. Frequently, communal complacency results from privilege, be it systematically for only a subset of a community’s population or a benefit for the entire community, such as peacetime. In Israel, however, many complacency catalysts do not manifest themselves amongst the majority of the populace. Given the relative equality amongst citizens, the nearly perpetual and wave-like rise in population over the country’s existence, and the nation’s belligerent political scene, while a people’s ambition cannot truly be measured, Israel generally evades a national sentiment of complacency.
To start with equality, the telltale sign of an innovative state is a lack of institutionalized privilege for any subset of the population. Though this is very much an idealistic standard to hold contemporarily, as no nation’s population is entirely equal, I will first analyze the plights of three sects of Israeli society—women, members of the LGBT community, and Palestinians—and later discuss the impacts of their comparative opportunities within the Israeli economy and the economic contexts of Israeli privilege itself.
Firstly, in the realm of gender equality, Israel has historically ensured equality of its citizens, while also ensuring somewhat contradictory religious freedoms amongst the nation’s various religious communities. Thus, the Israeli history of gender equality has rested on the fragile balance between religious zealotry and human rights. In the nation’s beginnings, to start, the Israeli Declaration of Independence demanded that a constitution be written, published, and ratified by October 1 of that year, 1948; however, according to Professor Emerita of Labor Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Frances Raday, due to a few religious political parties’ shared view that governmental rule on personal status may not contradict religious rule, which typically systematically favors males in most regards, neither a constitution nor a bill of rights was ratified (Raday). In fact, only the Women’s Equal Rights Law passed in 1951, a limited attempt to counteract previous governmentally endorsed sexist offenses. For most rulings, as indicated by Visiting Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies, Religion, and the Social Sciences at Harvard University, Yüksel Sezgin, Israeli personal liberties largely fall under the reign of the nation’s Millet System, a system that stems back to the Ottoman Empire, in which leaders of each religious community control laws of personal status, such as divorce, for members of their religion, making 14 independent courts for the 14 nationally recognized religious communities (632). Nevertheless, despite initial discrepancies in gender-based equality for Israeli citizens, later on, Israel became one of the many nations to ratify the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Note 12). Even still, Israel retains the second largest average wage gap by gender for similar work in the entire world. However, the European Union’s National Situation Analysis Report of Israeli Gender Equality of 2011 found Israel to be comparable to most European nations, with increasing representation for women in most sectors of the national workforce, progressive workplace laws, and minimal gender-based violence across the country (Euromed). Although Israel, as a nation, is, by no means, fully gender-equal, its modern progression towards equal treatment keys into a great potential for the future of gender-based equality.
More controversially, but equally important, Israel has become a Middle Eastern pioneer in prioritizing gay rights and actively forming a gay-friendly and gay-equal state. In the words of Ian Deitch, reporter for the Associated Press, “Tel Aviv is one of the few places in the Middle East where gays feel free to walk hand-in-hand and kiss in public” (Deitch). In Israel, gay men and women proudly serve in the government, military, and in the private sector with little legal taboo attached to their names (Hoare). However, as gay marriage is still illegal in Israel, many contend that the nation has a long way to go until it reaches full equality based on sexual-orientation (Lis). Yet, in comparison to its closest neighbors, the Palestinian Authority has yet to ratify a law ending the prohibition of any homosexual activity in either the West Bank or Gaza, and gay men in Egypt are often arrested and jailed under charges of “immorality” (BBC “Palestinian”; Kingsley). Thus, as long as GayCities.com and American Airlines continue to rate Tel Aviv as the best travel destination for gay people, Tel Aviv, and Israel at large, may be the best solution for most gay citizens within a several-country radius (עכבר העיר).
Nevertheless, Israel is not a fully equal state. Specifically regarding its occupation (Note 13) of the West Bank, numerous outside organizations, like the United Nations, Amnesty International, and the Human Rights Watch (Note 14), have condemned many of the Israeli government’s policies towards Israeli citizens living in the West Bank and Gaza; as stated by Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa Director of Human Rights Watch, “Israeli officials are showing utter contempt for international law that prohibits settlements in occupied territory and protects Palestinians’ land rights” (PressTV; Amnesty International USA). Additionally, the government of Israel utilizes differently colored license plates in order to efficiently and systematically racially profile its populace, a practice that would never come close to proliferation within many other developed nations (Dranoff). Racial and ethnic discrimination is shockingly explicit within Israeli society. Nevertheless, while the only true consolation for this blatant racism is an end to it, I contend that, at least in terms of economics and innovation, because Israel primarily functions as a segregated, binational state, Israeli entrepreneurs may choose to live in a world of ignoring the racism Palestinians face, just as members of American suburbia can often live while ignoring the plights of numerous inner-city civilians. Thus, while the government of Israel, by no means, treats Palestinians of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as equals—in fact, they’re not even citizens—and has much upon which to improve before achieving equality between them and Israeli citizens, there is some hope that the Israeli occupation of Palestine may not hinder Israel’s innovative potential as much as it can.
With all discussion of Israeli equality, it is imperative to note its larger contexts within the national economy in terms of complacency and opportunity. First of all, in a country endorsing privilege, two catastrophic effects arise: the nonprivileged selection cannot, as easily, contribute to the greater economy as a whole, and the privileged percentage is much less likely to innovate, simply because, when things aren’t that bad, the need to problem-solve vanishes. We see this, additionally, in the lack of innovation in countries infamous for their inequality, in nations such as Saudi Arabia, which has frequently given female drivers charges of terrorism (Wyke). In comparison to Israel, which has 75 companies on the NASDAQ, Saudi Arabia has zero. Looking at equality in the context of Israel’s national surroundings, a high percentage of Israeli citizens that would normally face much harsher treatment in neighboring countries live on fair ground in Israel. This is not to say that Israel is a fully equal society, but that, in comparison, by governing on the path to end systematic privilege, Israeli citizens can rarely justify complacency with privilege anymore.
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When Nick Naylor, a lobbyist for “Big Tobacco” in the movie Thank You for Smoking, argues on behalf of his practices that his motivations lie in “population control,” his point is not without merit (“Thank You For Smoking”).
Aside from complacency based upon privilege is the lack thereof in times of unprecedented population growth, like the many waves of immigrants Israel has absorbed throughout its years. In eras of stark population growth, it is more difficult to maintain unemployment rates; either new businesses or new markets must emerge, as the status quo is simply not enough. For most countries, rather than a solution in altering economic policy, this simply translates into modifying immigration quotas, as the American government has pursued numerous times; however, in Israel, due to the Law of Return, any Jew without a criminal record may become a citizen of Israel. Thus, rather than restricting the number of people to enter the country, the Jewish Agency for Israel has financed numerous programs to aid immigrants in learning Hebrew, finding jobs, and more, in order to utilize immigrants’ new, educated perspectives in its economy, instilling growth, rather than limiting it (The Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption; The Jewish Agency for Israel “Customized”).
Specifically, throughout the wave of immigration from the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Israel welcomed into its economy 82,000 engineers (Moss); needless to say, many credit the numerous technological advances of the last two decades within the country to the new immigrants composing it (Heilman). Nevertheless, Israeli treatment of immigrants has often largely depended upon the immigrants’ initial economic viability within the state. After Operation Moses, for example, the Israeli-coordinated mass-immigration of approximately 8,000 Ethiopian Jews in 1984, and Operation King Solomon, a similar mission to airlift 14,200 remaining Ethiopian Jews in 1991, many Ethiopian immigrants, without any technical or medical skills, often found themselves, after struggling to find high-paying professions, in poverty and under the care of social services, typically in neighborhoods of southern Tel Aviv (משרד העלייה והקליטה; Pinozovsky et al.; Bior; “Supporting”). As well, a new report from Human Rights Watch entitled “Make Their Lives Miserable” details the many accounts of Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers, who frequently face unlawful detention and rare access to proper asylum procedures. Though the Israeli government has not always fully accommodated all of its immigrants, it has run numerous programs meant to help absorb many immigrants into its economy (Simpson). In fact, the Israeli government may actually be solving its immigrants’ problems unorthodoxly, through innovation. By funding venture capitalism throughout the country and prioritizing the formulation of new technology, the Israeli government may be taking advantage of its blossoming venture capital market, in hopes that the market itself will eventually provide careers for all of the newcomers, as it has already begun to occur (Tech-Career). In essence, members of the Israeli government may be hoping to privatize assimilation. So, even though the Israeli government does not provide for each and every immigrant, the newly emerging businesses within the Israeli economy will eventually need workers, solving the problem of immigrant unemployment—economic disenfranchisement for immigrants—with more jobs, rather than more competition for the same ones.
Of course, until new Israeli companies reach more poverty-stricken immigrant communities, like those of Ethiopians in southern Tel Aviv, there will be an element of socioeconomic privilege that Israelis in more affluent communities will be forced to either live with or ignore. But, with the rising numbers of Ethiopian Israelis in the domestic technology industry, there is still much hope for the future of Israeli immigrants and Israeli innovation.
* * * * * * *
Additionally, a critical trigger for complacency within many societies is, counterintuitively, peacetime prosperity. Often seen as a positive, the mere lack of exposure of regular threats to an entire nation can diminish that nation’s innovation index, usually putting an end to militaristic innovation. In an era of continuous threats of violence with nearly all of Israel’s neighbors, it is mandatory for the IDF to maintain an edge on all military technology. Otherwise, the entire nation’s populace may live in imminent danger of rockets, missiles, bombs, and other weaponry often used against it (BBC “What Weapons”). The most popular, the Iron Dome, a product of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, was designed to intercept rockets from Hamas Militants. Without this single device, the IDF would have needed to spend significantly more money in defending from Hamas attacks, and was ultimately desparate for this creation to emerge. In the end, while no country desires militaristic competition, it tends to bear fruits of innovation never before imaginable.
Lastly, geographic limitations force a community to reimagine its setting, with members innovating to maintain a conventional way of life. For Israel, this means transforming a desert into an agricultural dream, all without the help of unsupportive neighbors. Needlesstosay, in one of the most arid climates of the populated world, Israeli settlers learned to conquer the desert, and, in 1959, just 11 years after the nation’s independence, formulated the world’s most efficient irrigation system to ever exist: the Blass drip irrigation system, named after Israeli innovator Simcha Blass (Shamah). Additionally, Israel now recycles three fourths of its water, more than any other nation in the world, because, unlike many other nations, it has no other option (Odenheimer and Nash). Though its original geographic situation was dismal, Israeli technicians conquered water shortages because they had to. Thus, as is most often the case, the number of scientists and technicians within a community matters much less than their ambition. Nevertheless, all of this is not to say that poor communal conditions lead to innovative success, only that, when combined with other essential elements of innovation, communal adversity can, and often has, become a catalyst for new solutions.
Complacency comes in all forms, from systematic privilege, to a steady or lowering population size, peacetime military relaxation, even to living in a reasonable and content environment. While not every aspect of Israel is desirable amongst most communities, it is imperative, in fostering a culture of innovation, for communities to do whatever possible to limit communal complacency, be they in advancing corporate competition, pursuing equality, or anything else.
Surviving in a Global Market
Phorescent storefront lights reflect across the concrete ground to eliminate the need of any streetlights. Thousands of people from all over the world, at any one moment, stroll along the pedestrian-only street with ice cream, cupcakes, coffee, or other delicacies in one hand and their wallets in the other. Israeli children, in their imagined escapades, scurry along in packs, running through tourist couples and families. Men and women alike yell from storefronts, “Taglit (Note 15) Special: 50% off!” It is an open-air market with the luxury of buildings; it is Ben Yehuda Street in the heart of Jerusalem.
In most economies, profit is a clearly defined margin, a subtext amongst store clerks and their shoppers that varies in weight, depending on location, brand, and the store itself. However, the only clearly defined montras on Ben Yehuda Street are that all that glitters is gold and all discounts are legitimate. Always.
But, for visitors spending their final night in Israel at what seems to be the most popular commercial outpost in the Middle East, price an ever-changing number, and foreign patronage is an idea from far away.
And so continues the legacy of Ben Yehuda Street, a haven for Israeli shopkeepers looking to remain financially viable, given that they provide enough “discounts” to a shifting foreign populace interested in beauty and a good deal.
* * * * * * *
Foreign investment has made Israel Israel. It is the fundamental constant truer to Israel than its nonexistent constitution. Perhaps most critically, foreign investment, at nearly $12 billion in 2013, has become a lifelong bandage for the Israeli economy, forever augmenting the aggregate demand in the Israeli market (Pozin). As well, the proliferation of typically religiously fueled non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other donations greatly benefit the Israeli economy. Though certain aspects of the Israeli economy diminish much of the potential power of the foreign investment it yearly experiences, such as the ever-growing government subsidies for Haredim and the similarly expansive international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, foreign investment within the Israeli economy still plays a crucial role in advancing one of the most geographically limited states in the world.
Firstly, Israel, a nation of 20,770 square kilometers and 8.009 million people, took in almost 3 million visitors during 2013 alone (Central Bureau of Statistics). Aided by numerous attractive Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Bahai, and other heritage sites within its boundaries, many come in pilgrimage, to explore the land of their religious past. In fact, Taglit-Birthright Israel, since 1999, has devoted itself to sending over 400 thousand Jewish adults, from 66 total countries, on a free 10-day trip “to visit their ancestral homeland” (Taglit-Birthright Israel). Moreover, while Israel’s booming tourism industry clearly ameliorates its entertainment and hospitality industries’ business, many small, family-owned businesses frequently reap the benefits of tourism as well. As foreign entrants explore Israel’s numerous religious and archaeological sites, they, often taking advantage of the nation’s currency exchange rate, splurge in their spending. Thus, along with members of the country’s tourism industry, a variety of small, family-owned businesses that otherwise may drown in Israel’s sea of competition stay afloat.
Additionally, foreign investment in the Israeli government and economy largely manifests itself in the number of foreign-based and domestic NGOs in Israel. In fact, according to Social Entrepreneurship Blogger, Tristin Pollock, at over 32,000, there are more nonprofits in Israel per capita than in any other country. While many nonprofits in Israel are secular, the justification for many donors in contributing to the Israeli economy lies in religious ties; its roots contribute to the global donors’ pathos to ensure that their ancestors’ home is secure. Historically, two heavy hitters for Israeli charity have been the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Jewish National Fund. The Jewish Agency for Israel, derived from the League of Nations’ British Palestine Mandate has helped to establish more than 1,000 communities within Israel since its founding in 1929, providing resources for immigrants’ assimilation, including classes to learn Hebrew, career preparation, and absorption programs across the country in order to minimize the many burdens immigrants face (Great Britain; משרד החינוך; The Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption; The Jewish Agency for Israel “Customized”). The Jewish National Fund, on the other hand, was founded in 1901 in order to purchase lands for Jewish use from Ottoman Palestine (The Jewish Agency for Israel “Young”). Since its founding, it has financed the planting of more than 240 million trees, so much that Israel was one of two countries in the world to end the 20th century with a net gain in trees (JNF “About”; JNF “Our History”). Though foreign donations within Israel greatly benefit Israeli society, they also serve to boost the Israeli aggregate demand so much over the country’s existence that it has become Israel’s “new” form of governmental fiscal policy, basking in the steady creation of jobs and infrastructure, without the corresponding government deficit and inflation that typically come along with it. Thus, the impact of foreign donations to Israel transcends their original cause, and they continue instill a permanent revolution within the Israeli economy.
The disadvantage, however, of the natural religiosity of Israel is the poor economic status of many members of the Haredim sub-populace. Although Israel, as a nation, has always prided itself as a homeland and a refuge for the Jewish people, even in its Declaration of Independence, the sub-populace it vows to protect includes a subculture of people who choose, rather than entering the workforce, to study in yeshivot (Note 16); as a consequence, according to Sever Plotzker, journalist for Yediot Ahronot, 88 percent of Haredim live under the national poverty line (Plotzker). Thus, government subsidies eliminate potential governmental funds for additional national infrastructure, publically funded schools, and venture capital, pulling the country back from its fuller economic potential. Nevertheless, as the Israeli society’s religiosity encourages the worldwide population to continue to finance organizations within Israel, the Haredim effect remains as multifaceted as Israel itself, and thus, cannot be exclusively labeled a hindrance.
As well, Israel has always been victim to numerous international trade sanctions movements, limiting much of its foreign trade. Since 1943, the Arab League has fostered a tertiary boycott of Israeli products, extending all the way to companies that trade with companies that trade with Israel (Weiss). However, as time passed and new countries began to sign peace treaties with Israel, this boycott faded into words and nothing more; in the Al-Ahram Weekly, an Egyptian newspaper, one official commented, “Boycotting Israel is something that we talk about and include in our official documents, but it is not something that we actually carry out—at least not in most Arab states” (Ezzat). Nevertheless, new grassroots campaigns to boycott Israel have come up since the de facto abandonment of the Arab League’s tertiary boycott. For example, inspired by the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion on the illegality of the separation barrier between Israel and the West Bank, activists across the world have begun to popularize the Israeli Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, in order to pressure the Israeli government to respect the rights of both Israeli and Palestinian citizens. Though its successes, since its establishment in 2005, have, so far, been limited, the BDS movement against Israel has gained popularity throughout its years, with endorsements in essays in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and numerous other news sources across the world, and may, in the future, percolate amongst new organizations (Erakat; Makdisi). So, while no one can be certain about the global investment in Israel in the future, presently, and for all of the country’s existence, foreign investment has played a substantial role in advancing Israel’s economic potential (Note 17).
While the future of foreign investment within Israel is uncertain, by perpetually boosting the Israeli economy’s aggregate demand and directly benefiting Israel’s populace and infrastructure, it has helped to foster a nation in which staying economically afloat is possible. Moreover, with rich economies come rich governments, with more potential to fund schools, infrastructure, and venture capitalism, providing the batteries to popularize the very innovations they intend to create. And after all, who doesn’t like trees?
From Prototypes to Patents: Fitting Startups into the Corporate World
“When do you think it’ll end?” I asked her. In Akko, a northern city of Israel, bordering the Mediterranean, a gentle woman named Aisha operates a small bookstore amongst many others within the market. A family of wrinkles spreads across her face, forging new paths as she speaks.
The temperature outside makes me regret the two undershirt I chose to wear that morning, and the sun outside, unblocked by any heroic cloud, continued to radiate, with full intensity, throughout the late morning.
It was the eighth day of Operation Protective Edge, a seven-week Israeli military operation in the summer of 2014 that, by its completion, led to the deaths of 2,131 Palestinians and 71 Israelis (OCHA). Aisha was tired.
“I’m, I’m just not sure anymore,” she told me. “This ‘conflict,’ if you even want to call it that, has been going on since much before my lifetime, and I’m really just not sure about what’s going to happen.”
There was a pause. Aisha gazed down to the book she was holding, a book on the Roman empire’s legacy in Akko, and placed it on the table. “I don’t know why our government…” She began, before quickly halting herself. “It’s frustrating that my government would do this. And, I’m aware it’s not unprovoked, but… I’m sad to say that I voted in this regime.”
We shared an estranged glance. In all of my stay in Israel, few people ever spoke of national elections; we knew that the state maintained a theocratic parliamentary democracy, yet no one ever spoke of change of the parties that could soon be voted out of office until this point. At least with me. I asked her, “I won’t ask you who you voted for, but if you don’t mind, what made you choose for whom you did?”
For many Americans, the answer may be clear when discussing Israeli politics: the party’s policy on handling the Palestinian territories. Conflict Management v. Potential Peace.
“Money,” she shocked me once more. “I care a lot about the situation in Palestine, of course, but, here in Akko, far away from everything, I just want to stay in business. I want good schools, government protection—and maybe even funding—for small businesses, and the chance to vacation. If we start getting that, then we can talk about Palestine.”
* * * * * * *
Innovation is nothing without implementation. Thus, erasing the inhibitors of innovation within a community is quintessential to its success. So, by augmenting government subsidies for venture capitalism; allowing entrepreneurs to experiment with their product, perfecting it to fit within the realm of modernity, while maintaining its originality; creating “Startup Accelerators” within the community; and ensuring to innovators that their new technology will have a high likelihood of economic survival—or, at least, ensuring them the ability to save face and try again—community leaders may follow the Israeli government’s example and greatly empower their populace to explore new possibilities in technology and potentially create something brilliant.
Firstly, the Israeli government prioritizes its venture capital market, having institutionalized The Yozma (Note 18) Group during the 1990s, a commission to maximize Israel’s venture capital potential, and contemporarily offering tax relief to up-and-coming businesses within the country (Baygan). Additionally, in 2003, the Israeli parliament unanimously voted in the Business Concentration Act, limiting the powers of corporate conglomerates, in favor of small businesses (Schumpeter). Furthermore, through the taxable revenue from the extensive foreign investment in Israel, parties in the Israeli parliament can hold true on their campaign promises of supporting the businesses within the country, operating on a budget comparably more relaxed than many of the nation’s peers. Ergo, by easing the process to form and operate venture capital businesses, the Israeli government maximizes its venture capital industry’s potential.
However, even after innovators have basked in government subsidies, the issues with implementing new ideas typically come in the stages of redefining products until they become economically viable. For many people across the world, creating a new idea and acting upon it is the least of their concern: the harshest inhibitor is adapting a product to the nearly dogmatic borders of modernity’s demands. While there is no way to determine the source of all Israeli resilience—many credit conscription, contending that its soldiers learn to push through harsh times—one popular thought is that Israeli entrepreneurs have a cornucopia of resources available to them, and thus don’t need any more resilience than innovators from any other nation. One critical example of these resources is the variety of startup accelerators stationed throughout Israel. Startup accelerators offer office space for up-and-coming businesses and often develop seminars and lectures for the entrepreneurs to learn business and marketing skills that may be out of their expertise. Moreover, by organizing accelerators in “batches,” accelerators allow members of different companies to work together, under the premise of confidentiality, to provide additional perspectives and give helpful advice. Although the proliferation of startup accelerators is not strictly an Israeli phenomenon, as there are 4,825 startup accelerators are spread across the globe, with 60 in Israel, Israel’s density of accelerators should not go unnoticed.
Lastly, though mentioned in the previous chapter, the extensive foreign investment within the Israeli economy serves as additional encouragement during a product’s experimental phase, given that the promise of a large market for new technology frequently encourages risk-taking innovators to continue until production. As well, with a larger potential market for an innovator’s product, Israeli innovators have more leeway in the products they design; rather than crafting every facet of their products to the demands of Israel’s small population, Israeli innovators need not alter their inventions as strictly, in order to maintain a product’s economic viability for a global market. So, although foreign investment isn’t always replicable, its effects on an economy and emerging products are too significant to omit.
Completing the circle of entrepreneurial assistance, the success in Israeli venture capitalism leads to new technology sold across the world and new taxable income for the Israeli government, leading to the Israeli government’s reinvestment in research and development. Although there is not a market for every idea, when a government supports all new ideas, it allows for successful ones to emerge and cover the costs of the failures.
Through supporting good and bad ideas alike, though the Israeli community is likely to incur loss, the great track-record for Israeli venture capital successes creates the possibility to support any innovator, encouraging all citizens to make the entrepreneurial jump into the unknown, a trait citizens of many other nations simply do not have.
A brief physics lesson: when someone holds a rubber ball two meters above the ground, stored within the very ball itself is what scientists call gravitational potential energy. Within the rubber ball is the potential to release an explosion of energy into its surroundings, to make a change that will forever redefine history. However, if the ball never drops, the potential never manifests itself as anything other than a reverie of what could have been, and the world remains the same. The world remains stagnant. Only when the ball hurdles through the unknown, a new space of mystery and intangibility, may it truly impact the surrounding world.
I contend that no ball need remain undropped.
* * * * * * *
Most of what makes the Israeli economy so great isn’t actually the least bit profound. Its characteristics are simple enough that they can be applied to practically any nation. They include a new-age military structure, in which hierarchy is relaxed, discussion is encouraged, and improvisation is acclaimed; a publicly funded tertiary education system, in order for learning to transcend socioeconomic status; and government subsidies its venture capital industry. These investments, though not all focused economically, have reaped benefits that transcend far beyond what anyone may have imagined.
Enabled by these simple practices, Israelis’ innovations, over the past 67 years, have transformed the world of robotics, medicine, hardware and software, agriculture, games, and more. The Israeli startup, ReWalk, enables paraplegics to stand and walk once again, while Given Imaging has produced the first pill-based camera, simplifying endoscopies. Meanwhile, Intel Israel has revolutionized computer technology with the Centrino chip and dual-core processors, and Waze, a social media-driven GPS program, has even been purchased by Google. In agriculture, some of the world’s greatest irrigation techniques stem from Israeli farmers conquering the Negev (Leichman) (Note 19). Additionally, even games such as Rummikub originate in Israeli hands. As well, numerous corporations employ Israelis in permanent Research and Development firms, including Apple, Texas Instruments, and John Deere (Ministry of Industry, Trade & Labor and Investment Promotion Center).
In short, the Israeli economy has made the world better, augmenting the global standard of living to a point both unexpected and unimaginable before its existence.
Once again, these policies need not stay exclusively Israeli, as they only require slight governmental policy alterations in order to produce similar results. Not to mention, select nations across the globe already follow some Israeli techniques, and have already seen substantial economic growth. For example, many countries such as Finland, Norway, and Sweden have eliminated most university tuition, and presently maintain a better qualified workforce because of it. Additionally, the government of Finland, since 1967, has financed the Finnish Innovation Fund, a nearly mirrored version of Israel’s Yozma Group (Mazzucato). Not to mention, the government of China, a nation that, after being the world’s product manufacturing powerhouse for the last 30 years, receiving less than five cents for every dollar spent in American commerce, has begun to, over the last decade, pour billions upon billions of dollars into domestic research and development programs (Gifford; Geewax; Lim). This will, perhaps, turn the tides of Chinese innovation and highly augment its national GDP, potentially leading to a greater standard of living for more of its inhabitants. Nevertheless, there is much for the world to learn in adjusting economies to be a tad more like Israel’s.
In the era of record population size and unprecedented levels of poverty spread throughout the world, economic innovation is the only way to genuinely grow a reasonable global standard of living: innovation leads to more efficient techniques, improved businesses, and new markets, and is the only way to fiscally account for the population growth we face now. The choice is ours; we may follow Israel’s example, employing simple adjustments in our governments and businesses, or we may not. Either way, we will, one day, truly experience the repercussions of our contemporary choices, and the moment for change is now.
(1) Newton supposedly derived this quote from John of Salisbury’s book Metalogicon, published in 1159, containing a potential allusion to Bernard of Chartres’ allegory depicting this same idea. Ergo, discussion of innovation abides by the same rules as innovation itself (John; Yoon).
(2) Although innovation is merely the synthesis of old ideas, for the purpose of ease, I will freely use the adjective, “new,” and terms alike within this essay.
(3) For now, we can define education as learning the facts and theories of one’s field, questioning his or her own natural biases, and learning how to learn—to take in new information efficiently—and solve problems based upon that learning.
(4) By no means is Israel the world’s “only” innovative community. However, as a nation, it serves as a better case study than other non-national innovative communities, such as Silicon Valley.
(5) Ironically, an Israeli research and development team for Intel Corporation later disproved Moore with the advent of the microprocessor, an invention that shifted the computer processor manufacturing field from power to efficiency (ISRAEL21c Staff).
(6) The soldier’s name is changed for anonymity.
(7) A small, independent, yet cooperative village, contrasted with a kibbutz
(8) Commonly known as the West Bank
(9) Ultra-Orthodox Jews
(10) Although religion does not penetrate all characteristics of the world’s only Jewish country, the national recognition of the Sabbath yields a workweek beginning on Sunday morning and ending on Thursday afternoon.
(11) Coincidentally dubbed “Silicon Wadi” (Young Entrepreneur Council)
(12) To be fair, though, it doesn’t take much to take part in ratifying that convention; much of the principles behind it have yet to be tangibilized into gender-equal legislation.
(13) A term now both supporters of Palestine and the Israeli government officially endorse
(15) A reference to Taglit-Birthright International
(16) Jewish schools in which students exclusively study Jewish texts, without any secular education program
(17) Most likely, the true impact of the BDS movement will depend upon how easily foreigners give up their Intel microprocessors; Apple, Google, LG, and Motorola phones; and their Microsoft operating systems. The Israeli economy permeates the world; to abandon it is to abandon all technology.
(18) Translated to English: “Initiative”
(19) The Hebrew title of the desert in the south of Israel
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