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