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Innovation begins with a ‘whine’

Imagine, for a second, what would happen if our best and brightest -- the pride and joy of our start-up nation -- decided to leave, just because they didn’t like it here

I never thought I would work in hi-tech.

Really. If you had asked me a year and a half ago what I would do for work when I landed in Israel, I would have told you I was going to write a best-selling memoir, a blog or two, and aim to pay the bills by pitching English language news articles about Israel. In fact, any writing or editing in English I could get paid for, save for grant-writing, which is apparently the #1 most popular job aspiration for new English speaking olim, judging from the amount of available online workshops marketed to us.

But having worked in the industry for more than a year now, I realize that hi-tech is more fitting an industry for me than I previously would have imagined. Why?

It’s an industry inspired by criticism, and powered by the belief that change is possible.

Kind of like how I live my life.

I see where my life isn’t working and then imagine what’s possible. Following that first step (an admission that something could be better), I start imagining what “better” looks like… and then begin to walk on the path towards it.

Ask any entrepreneur what motivated him to create a new product or service and he will likely tell you a version of the same.

He had an idea.

Not the idea. Not in the very beginning. But an idea; a belief; a hunch. His idea was, “This can be better than it is now.”

Perhaps he imagined a better device. A better medicine. A better software. Or a better user experience. Perhaps he imagined a better life, for himself or for someone he loved.

Regardless, his innovation likely started as a complaint. Because if “it” was good enough as it was, there would not have been the need for innovation.

Dissatisfaction, as one author wrote, is the seed of invention. I agree.

So to work in an industry where most people are imagining better lives is something that I can rally behind.

Invention is something we in Israel are very proud of. We show off our “start-up nation.” We host tours and populate them with interested students, politicians and journalists. We publicize far and wide our successes, which really, when you think about it, are the results of a complaint we once had, that was transformed by action.

The Western frontier

In the last week or so, in the English-language Israel-related blogosphere, there has been heated discussion around Israel-directed complaints from the pens of her new, and not-so-new, Western-born residents.

The backlash was directed at Ariel Beery for his “Why live here?” in which he warns Israel of the price she might pay for being behind the curve on human capital, as people continue to leave Israel for cities in which they can be better paid or offer their kids a better education. The backlash was directed toward Sarah Tuttle-Singer for her honest, yet subtle cry for help, “My Israel: A land of spoiled milk and honey.” And backlash has been directed at me personally when I’ve blogged about what I see as Israel’s blind ignorance of the danger of food allergies or my neighbors’ disregard for the health of their children.

The backlash (in comments on the blog or Facebook) comes mostly from other olim, people who think we do Israel a disservice by publicly “bashing her,” or who are afraid of being lumped in a category with us “whiny Anglos.” But I’ve also heard the sentiment from native born Israelis, the ones who think it’s funny to refer to us as “Amerikakim,” when we annoy them with our “square” mentality and our high expectations of life here in Israel.

Instead of stopping for a moment to take in another’s opinion (which may or may not be criticism), the backlashers are often instead quick to lash out defensively and reply with some version of:

If you don’t like it, then leave.

Besides being hurt by such abrasive disregard for my personal experience and feelings (which matter even if you don’t think so), I wonder how much thought these individuals give to the potential impact of inviting the complainers to leave Israel.

Imagine, for a second, what would happen if our beloved innovators — the ones we all hold up as the pride and joy of our nation – decided to leave, just because they didn’t like “it.”

What if, instead of trying to create something better, they took the advice and left?

What would have become of our start-up nation?

Discontent, said Oscar Wilde, is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation.

I believe that in five or ten years, we will look back at the last generation of olim, beginning with the Russian immigrants in the early ’90s and continuing through now, through this generation, through the wave of complaining olim — the ones who want to see a greener Israel, a better-educated Israel, a higher paid Israel — and see that we were all part of a revolution.

A new wave of immigrants who came to Israel not only to live the Zionist dream, but to imagine it and create it.

About the Author
Jen Maidenberg made Aliyah to the Lower Galilee with her family in 2011. A published writer and author, she chronicles her life in prose and poetry at www.andyaddayadda.com