Israel- Start Up Nation

My tour took me to The Israeli Stock Exchange in Tel Aviv and The Center for Israeli Innovation.

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Sorry but I need to use an idiom (all my books on writing frown on this) Here it goes, I was blown away by what I saw and learned there. Tel Aviv is called the Silicon Wadi (wadi is the Arabic word for valley). With a population of just 8 million people, Israel is home to 4000 tech start ups. That number ranks it fourth in world behind the US, Uk, and Canada in new company creation. Of the 5000 largest tech companies in the world, 400 have headquarters in Israel.

I took careful notes on this phenomenon during the center’s powerpoint presentation and have done research since I’ve been home.

Why is Israel such a innovative giant?

  • Talent 47% of people over 25 have a college degree. Hebrew College was founded in 1918 and has a collaboration program with many private companies.
  • Immigration and The Law of Return People from all over the world who are of Jewish descent or have converted to the Judaism are welcomed to be part of the country. Many of those people have degrees in science, technology and engineering.
  • Demographics Unlike Japan whose population is top heavy with elderly people, the bulk of Israel’s population is younger.
  • Venture Capital System In the 1980’s, 800,000 Russian Jewish immigrants flooded Israel. They had skills but couldn’t find jobs. What happened next was problem solving at its best. A system of providing financial capital  to early-stage, high-potential businesses was organized. This was so successful that in 1993 Yozma (Hebrew for “initiative”) was established as a system of “offering attractive tax incentives to foreign venture-capital investments in Israel and promising to double any investment with funds from the government”. And so Israel grew. Since 1980, has it has doubled its population and increased the number of job four times over..
  • High Standard of Living at Affordable Prices The Silicon Wadi in and around Tel Aviv offers a great place to work and live
  • Culture At age 18, all Jewish men must be part of the national military for 32 months,all Jewish woman at that age must serve for two years. In addition to protecting their country, Israeli youth learn how to work in groups toward common goals and to problem solve.They interact with other social classes and have the opportunity to network. Young soldiers with high academic scores work in the special operations division and many of them go on to be hired by tech corporations or able to start their own companies that produce innovative products.
  • Chutzpah defined as supreme self -confidence, nerve, or audacity. I see it as resilience, the bravery to take risks and the strength to go on in the face of failure. Because of my left turn I’ve been given time to research this concept and I’m finding that chutzpah is a strong force in the Jewish identity. It has been built by history and a desire to find meaning. It is the fire of Jewish life.
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India- Beneath the Colorful Sights,Women’s Issues

I’m a stubborn optimist. But maybe I carry it too far. I wanted so badly to bring back home a lovely picture of India and dispel the dirty, dark shadows that label this country.

Three months later, a orange piece of twine remains on my wrist, tied there by a Hindu holy man as a reminder of his blessing. This simple gesture has allowed me to stay close to India. This winter on the other side of the earth, I am taking yoga, a mindfulness class, and breath and meditation classes in an effort to keep memories and feelings alive. India is here with me as I look through my pictures, write, and do research to understand more.

I have learned that behind the smiles I encountered on almost every feminine face I saw, there is a lot of pain. I have taken the time to read about the cultural injustice towards women in India and here, back at home, have found its extreme contrast with my life very disturbing.

India has gone from the fourth most dangerous country for women to number one with its high level of gender based violence and discrimination. Women fear gang rapes, sex trafficking, and forced servitude. They have been victims of acid attacks, female genital mutilation and stoning. Their devaluation has lead to the killing of girl babies, and feticide (the destruction of the female fetus in the womb), and grown women being murdured in a practice called “bride killing” in which victims are “accidently” burned to death.

Even a basic right is denied to females. One out of every three households have toilet facilities. It is the custom of men to relieve themselves on walls anywhere in cities and villages. I witnessed this many times during my tour. Women must sometimes walk long distances to find a secluded spot to maintain modesty while engaging in the simplest bodily functions. The Indian government is attempting to solve the problem by building more public bathrooms but progress is slow.

Women are over half the population but we still fall short in attaining equal rights and power in the world. The degree of injustice has a varied spectrum. Of course, some women, like those in India, are at the extreme end of discrimination. But the cultural story remains the same all over the world, that woman are just not quite on the level of men. I have experienced the subtle nuances; of not being listened to, being written off and not taken seriously. I have felt the pain of believing I was not good enough because of a perceived lack of intellect or because I have not been the perfect ideal of feminine physical beauty. And I have also experienced abuse.

But there is hope, women’s voices are being raised in India. We visited a family who had adopted four girls who had been abandoned by their families And I have since read about a protest on January 1st of 2019 in which thousands and thousands of India’s women stood shoulder to shoulder to form a human line 385 miles long. The government had lifted the ban that stated that women of menstruating age , 10 to 50, were not allowed in the Hindu Sabarimala Temple. Even though the law was passed in September 2018 it was not honored. This wonderful show of solitary named “The Women’s Wall” not only brought attention to this issue but also was a call for all women in the country to speak out about gender equality and social reform.

I believe in the power of positive acts, no matter how small. Each pinpoint of light dispels the darkness. I’m so thankful to the many, many women all through history all over the world who have, bit by bit, worked to raise the dignity of women. As they lifted their voices, they many times faced great danger and humiliation. But their examples as role models have strengthened all of us and we are graced today and will continue to be graced with their dedication. Our vast numbers, all of us, are a positive power in the world and we must continue to work to make sure all women and girls live lives that are never diminished.

Eye holes in one of the walls at the old residence of one of the powerful maharajas. One of his wives could look out on the world though these holes but it was very important that she be seen as little as possible.

70 days, 7000 miles, Day 19

July 11, 2001

I’m in Montana, one of my original destinations for this trip.  I’m going to do some serious fly fishing here. But the day started out bad because I couldn’t find the place to get a National Parks Pass. I wasted a lot of time. Somehow things finally turned out.  I kind of knew they would. The same theme keeps playing itself over and over again. Just wait out the negativity, the doubts, the hopelessness. Don’t give up hope. This, too, shall pass. Life is like a wave, if you stay down you won’t appreciate the rise. It all balances out unless you choose to stay stuck.

I wrote down a quote from Hillary Clinton today that I saw in the newspaper. “Each of us is a pioneer in our own life.  We are charting new territory everyday…..The people I admire are those who are willing to go forward no matter what the odds.” Am I a pioneer? Can I help other women? There are few who are doing what I am doing.  Is it courage?  I didn’t actually have to fight demons or villains or injustice to take this journey. But I did have to overcome the fear inside me. Maybe our greatest enemy is the monster voices of  the media and our culture that say “we shouldn’t” or “we can’t”. We have to turn down the volume.

I found a great campsite not far from the famous Little Big Horn River and had a visitor.

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I love this trip. I’m learning a lot. Themes keep repeating. Are there just a few basic truths in life, just a small number of things we really have to  know? Why do I have a feeling that they are all right here,right in front of me?

Hints for Women Travelers #1- Protect Your Spirit from Violent Media

We live in a culture where violence is considered entertainment. I won’t watch dark TV shows or movies anymore. If I did, I’d see the world as a hostile place and probably would not travel alone. I would lose my trust in the goodness of humanity,believing everyone had the potential to hurt me. In 2001, I took a 70 day, 7000 mile solo camping trip across the US and Canada and was amazed by the consistent kindness of strangers. I am so glad I left my comfort zone and witnessed the beauty of the world and the people in it.
Joseph Campbell wrote about the power of myths, the long held stories of brave knights on quests and maidens needing to be rescued. Old folktales and horrifying fantasies create fear that can take away our freedom and our mobility. They destroy our independence and our desire to go on our own quests for happiness. To paraphrase Joseph Campbell, everyone has the right to follow their bliss!

Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.”                                                                                                                            –Joseph Campbell