About the Jews, innovation, and their ancestral homeland of Israel

Prepared by Jon Sutz

For millennia, Jews have been the most hunted, vilified, discriminated-against religious minority on Earth.

After the latest attempt to exterminate them, from 1933-1945, Jews returned to their ancestral homeland, where they have striven to live in peace, in a very rough neighborhood of nations & regimes.

Since then, Israel — with only 1/10th of 1% of the world’s population — has produced countless major contributions to every facet of human wellness, happiness & longevity, and is at the cutting edge of solving the biggest challenges facing humanity, and the Earth.

This page contains fact-based resources that help explain what makes Israel, and the Jewish people, so remarkable, and the impact that their nation has had on the world.

(1) Israel as a global epicenter of innovation

(2) Innovation as part of the Jewish ethos

(1) Israel as a global epicenter of innovation

How Israel Became A Technology Startup Nation, by Adrian Bridgwater, Forbes, February 21, 2020. Excerpt:

The State of Israel has welcomed the opportunity to self-style itself as a technology startup nation. Scotland coined the term Silicon Glen to denote its tech growth zone just outside Edinburgh and beyond, Utah has Silicon Slopes and Dubai has Silicon Oasis. Logically enough then, Israel went for Silicon Wadi as the term to symbolize the location of its tech business hub, with the term ‘wadi’ meaning dry desert river bed in Arabic and colloquial Hebrew.

But why should Israel have shown its mettle in the tech market? What drove this region to become a software-centric startup nation of young companies vying for a place on the global tech map?

Part of the answer comes down to the local mindset, mentality and morals — after all, the country is well accustomed to fighting for its place. The wider answer is the combination of resources (largely human, not natural ones), higher education, the widespread use of English and the steadfast grasp the nettle attitude that typifies the local culture.

Curses into blessings

“We have a longstanding tradition of turning curses into blessings,” said Jon Medved, CEO of OurCrowd, a Jerusalem-based global venture investment platform organization. “We don’t have huge natural resources, so we have worked hard to develop our skills-base in the country. I don’t want to over-play the Jewish rhetoric, but there is a certain mentality that leans towards risk acceptance here… and people develop that from a young age. In my view, great achievements (in life – and in technology) are made by taking lots of risks, but in a calculated way with a diversified approach to everything.”

Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle

Book description:

START-UP NATION addresses the trillion dollar question: How is it that Israel– a country of 7.1 million, only 60 years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding, with no natural resources– produces more start-up companies than large, peaceful, and stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada and the UK?

With the savvy of foreign policy insiders, Senor and Singer examine the lessons of the country’s adversity-driven culture, which flattens hierarchy and elevates informality– all backed up by government policies focused on innovation. In a world where economies as diverse as Ireland, Singapore and Dubai have tried to re-create the “Israel effect”, there are entrepreneurial lessons well worth noting. As America reboots its own economy and can-do spirit, there’s never been a better time to look at this remarkable and resilient nation for some impressive, surprising clues.

(2) Innovation as part of the Jewish ethos

“Thou Shalt Innovate: How Israeli Ingenuity Repairs the World” (book)

Description:Thou Shalt Innovate profiles wondrous Israeli innovations that are collectively changing the lives of billions of people around the world and explores why Israeli innovators of all faiths feel compelled to make the world better. This is the story of how Israelis are helping to feed the hungry, cure the sick, protect the defenseless, and make the desert bloom. Israel is playing a disproportionate role in helping solve some of the world s biggest challenges by tapping into the nation’s soul: the spirit of tikkun olam the Jewish concept of repairing the world.

Following Start-Up Nation’s account of Israel’s incredibly prolific start-up scene, Thou Shalt Innovate tells the story of how Israeli innovation is making the whole world a better place. Israel has extraordinary innovators who are bound together by their desire to save lives and find higher purpose. In a part of the world that has more than its share of darkness, these stories are rays of light.

Review: In spirit of Jewish tradition, Israeli tech casts global ‘rays of light’; From Iron Dome to medical marijuana, ‘Thou Shalt Innovate: How Israeli Ingenuity Repairs the World’ says sabra hardheadedness has helped foster ‘a kinder, gentler world’, by Shoshanna Solomon, Times of Israel, April 4, 2018.

Documentary: “What’s With The Jews?” Excerpt:

Their contribution to humanity is enormous, unique and exceedingly difficult to explain. From Moses to Maimonides, to Mahler, Marx, Freud, Einstein and some 197 Nobel Prize laureates, the stunning social, scientific and artistic accomplishments of the Jews raise an obvious question. How do they do it?

The story of huge overrepresentation at the top is the same wherever you look. How does 1/500th of the world’s population produce so many prominent musicians, architects, lawyers, doctors, journalists, comedians and directors? A third of the medical faculty at Harvard is Jewish, as are nearly 40 per cent of history’s world chess champions.

In 1954, New York State school tests revealed 28 students with IQs over 170. Astonishingly, 24 of them were Jewish.

“The numbers are bizarre. They make no sense at all,” says Montreal rabbi Reuben Poupko. For Harvard professor Steven Pinker “Jewish achievement is obvious; only the explanation is unclear.”

Learn more here.

Third Aliyah pioneers, 1921 in Israel

Jewish Roots: Building the Land of Israel, by Dov Lipman, HonestReporting, August 7, 2019. Excerpt:

The Land of Israel, known as Palestine at the time, was a wasteland in the late 19th century. Mark Twain visited the region in 1867 and wrote in his travel book The Innocents Abroad:

Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestine must be the prince. The hills are barren, they are dull of color, they are unpicturesque in shape. The valleys are unsightly deserts fringed with a feeble vegetation that has an expression about it of being sorrowful and despondent.… It is a hopeless, dreary, heart-broken land.

Small shreds and patches of it must be very beautiful in the full flush of spring, however, and all the more beautiful by contrast with the far-reaching desolation that surrounds them on every side.…

Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies.… Renowned Jerusalem itself, the stateliest name in history, has lost its ancient grandeur, and is become a pauper village…the wonderful temple, which was the pride and the glory of Israel, is gone.… The noted Sea of Galilee…was long ago deserted by the devotees of war and commerce, and its borders are a silent wilderness.…Palestine is desolate and unlovely.

Just 100 years later, the Land of Israel was filled with lush forests with trees and flowers growing throughout the country, surrounding heavily populated cities connected by congested highways.

Photo by Shai Pal on Unsplash

“What Is Judaism?”, by CuriosityStream

From the description: “Judaism, at 4000 years old it is one of the oldest monotheistic religions and the granddaddy of Christianity and Islam. But even though its teachings helped create the world’s two most popular religions many people don’t know what the Jews actually believe. Judaism developed in the eastern Mediterranean over the last 4000ish years. Today there are about 15 million Jews making it the world’s tenth-largest religion.

Tel Aviv – 1948 and today