Over the weekend I read “Startup Nation,” the new book about why Israel has emerged as an unlikely global leader in high-tech. Even if its authors, Dan Senor and Saul Singer, were not my friends and, in the case of Saul, my editor at the Jerusalem Post, I would still say that it’s the best advertisement for Israel to come out in recent memory. Forgoing the usual discussion of Israel as an embattled nation that everyone hates and seeks to destroy, it focuses instead on the ingenuity and invincibility of the Israeli people and their vast technological contributions to the global economy. Where the Israeli army is discussed, its focus is not on soldiers chasing down terrorists but on how the Israeli military serves as a future commercial networking tool for soldiers who served in the same unit. You can see why the book both informs and inspires.
Truth regardless of consequences Am I the only one who is just plain tired of only hearing bad news about Jews and Israel? Remember the old joke of the Jewish guy who loves reading anti-Semitic magazines? When asked why, he says, “When I read Jewish newspapers all I come across is that we’re hated and attacked. When I read the anti-Semitic alternatives they tell me we run the world and have all the money.”
Israel is not a victim. Less so is it a tragic nation. Rather, as “Startup Nation” makes clear, Israel is one of the most highly educated and technologically advanced nations on earth, with one of the fastest growing economies. And it’s time that Jewish newspapers and periodicals stopped the sad, tired, worn story that Israel is about to draw its last breath.
True, Israel has implacable, terrorist enemies that surround it, and yes, Iran is building a bomb, which is an existential threat to the Jewish state. That’s all mighty serious stuff. These threats should and must be discussed, confronted, and ultimately neutralized, by force if necessary. But is that all there is to the modern Jewish story? Is there not also a story of tremendous success? Just imagine what a downer it is for the rest of the world to hear that the Jews see themselves only as perennial victims who are about to be murdered. And propagating only that bad news means that people learn to tune Israel out. Whenever they see the country coming up on the news – which is all the time – they naturally assume it’s some tragic, depressing story. So they either turn the channel or worse, they watch it and conclude that Israel is a place of guns, bombs, and bullets. If only they could hear about Israeli universities ranking in the top 10 worldwide, of the growing number of Nobel Prize-winners, of Andy Grove, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates rushing to invest in Israel, and how a crazy percentage of all the world’s computer chips are manufactured in the Jewish state.
The time has come for world Jewry to no longer look at the Jewish state only as the refuge for a persecuted people and instead focus on Israel as the place where the limitless potential of the Jewish people is finally being manifest. All we needed was for people to get out of our way, to rid ourselves of countries that shoved us into ghettos or gave quotas as to how many Jews could attend a university, and just look at how we thrive. And we prosper not as a self-absorbed nation but as a people who make vast contributions to the welfare of all mankind.
It is time for Israel to begin seriously considering forgoing American economic aid. I understand the military aid. Israel has an insane number of crazies who wish to attack and destroy it. But the economic aid creates an unnecessary dependency, undermines the perception of Israel as a prosperous country, and gives the United States undo influence over Israeli policy. And surely we all believe that decisions governing Israel’s right to defend itself should be taken by the Israeli prime minister rather than the American president.
There is more.
Many a Jew has wondered aloud why the Arabs got all the oil and Israel got none. What could God have been thinking in making despots and dictators like the Saudis and Kaddafi insanely rich while Israel has to struggle for every shekel it earns? Only now do we see the truth. Oil is the greatest curse ever to befall the Arabs. By digging a hole and having money flow from the ground, the Arab states had little incentive to build world-class universities and a thriving high-tech industry. And when the day finally comes – and it will – when the world is wise enough to finally find an alternative energy source to oil, these despotic regimes will completely collapse.
This isn’t rocket science. All of us, I’m sure, know at least one rich friend whose kids had to work for very little and who consequently became spoiled and indolent. Israel has had to work for every thing it has. No country in world history has ever been more unjustly reviled or more ferociously and continuously attacked. Conversely, no country better inspires the world to ponder the infinite capacity of humans to rise from the ashes – and in the case of the Holocaust, quite literally – and build a shining state on a hill.
Israel still has a lot of problems and a lot of enemies who seek to destroy it. It must be hyper-vigilant and forever strong. But it is time for the other side of the story to be highlighted as well. And I hope that more books like “Start-Up Nation” will begin to focus on Israel’s colossal achievements rather than merely its insurmountable threats.