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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70/7000 September 11, 2001

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It was a week and a half after I returned from my 70/7000 trip and I will always remember how sunny that morning was. I walked into the office of my elementary school and saw my colleagues silently huddled around a TV.  The images of the burning World Trade Towers were surreal but our feelings of fear and shock were overwhelmingly real.

I had promised my second grade class we would go to the village park to eat our lunch. My principal told me to keep the day as normal as possible and to go ahead with the plan. I watched these kids, many who were sons and daughters of  The Army soldiers of nearby Fort Drum, laughing and enjoying a glorious fall day. I knew that they would learn the terrible news from their parents and their world, our world, would never be the same again.

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I had started reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen to my class everyday since the first day of school.  It is a story of a boy named Brian who became lost in the Canadian wilderness. It was a book about struggle, resilience, and perseverance and lent itself to wonderful insights and great lessons to discuss and learn.

“He did not know how long it took, but later he looked back on this time of crying in the corner of the dark cave and thought of it as when he learned the most important rule of survival, which was that feeling sorry for yourself didn’t work. It wasn’t just that it was wrong to do, or that it was considered incorrect. It was more than that–it didn’t work.”

Brian had “hope in his knowledge. Hope in the fact that he could learn and survive and take care of himself. Tough hope, he thought that night. I am full of though hope.”

“Patience, he thought. So much of this was patience – waiting, and thinking and doing things right. So much of all this, so much of all living was patience and thinking.”

You are your most valuable asset. Don’t forget that. You are the best thing you have.”

My students sat on the rug and as I read, the circle seemed to get tighter everyday as we all sat closer and closer to each other.  Brian had learned about courage and hope. It saved him and he survived. It saved us, too.