I have just returned from a lunchtime visit to a restaurant in Rehovot’s Science Park. The food, as always was excellent, the portions generous to a fault. The waitresses, mostly students earning a bit extra, were helpful and friendly. And yet, memories of my mistake haunted my meal.
Rehovot’s science park is not unique. That morning, I had call to visit one of Tel Aviv’s science parks, a collection of modern buildings lined with well-stocked fish ponds (fishing prohibited). The journey from Rehovot was quick and comfortable – I took the much-maligned train. The journey did not take long and I was able to amuse myself watching the nose-to-tail traffic jam along the highway parallel to the train’s path. Strangely enough there were identical jams in both directions. Where were they all going? Surely those going North could swap jobs with someone going South; the savings in time, money and driver frustration would be enormous. For a while, my attention drifted as I thought about a new app, a start-up to match drivers and jobs. For just a few moments, I was able to forget about my mistake.
We all make mistakes. Some mistakes are easily corrected, some have more lasting consequences. But I doubt that many have caused so much regret as my mistake.
The Rehovot Science Park has grown spectacularly over the years. Home to many companies that have become household names, a number of restaurants have followed to provide hi-tech workers with their free lunches. There is a large hotel catering to the visitors who come from all over the world. They return home impressed by the concentration of far-seeing talent building Israel’s future. Not one thinks about my mistake.
I arrived in Rehovot nearly 50 years ago. On my first day in Israel, having driven down from Haifa port, I started work in El-Op, the only company to grace the useless empty fields that had once been an orange orchard. A few trees were left but were dying; there was no water. A lunchtime stroll around the fields might yield a couple of bitter oranges, good for making marmalade together with some ‘real’ oranges from the local greengrocer.
It was a few months later that I made my mistake. Taking what had become a daily stroll with a few colleagues in the blighted landscape of the dead orchard, someone said that the orchard was for sale. The owner was desperate to get rid of the albatross that had once been his family’s source of income. He had been a respected pioneer, a farmer, reclaiming the Land of Israel from the destruction wrought by the Ottomans and the British occupiers. Now he was the owner of a worthless 100 dunams of parched mud.
I’ll take 20 dunams, did I say? Give me 30 dunams, did I shout? No, what did you take me for? I was far too wise to buy for a song what would become the Rehovot Science Park.
We all make mistakes.