Israel as a model of national innovation, resilience, productivity, and competitiveness.
On the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the Independence of the State of Israel, it is important to pay tribute to a country that is one of history’s most spectacular miracles.
In 1948,as the world picked up its pieces from the ashes of WW2, the Jews who were dealt a particularly heavy hand established the Independent state of Israel.
As the war had raged on exposing man’s darkest side, Jews were disproportionately targeted. By the time the war ended with the decisive defeat of the Nazis, some six million Jews had been killed.
As with any new beginning, Israel encountered steep challenges from the onset. From its establishment, the new state of found itself besieged by formidable enemies and beleaguered by monumental internal challenges. Wars were fought in 1967,1973 and 2006. Even until this day, Israel remains a state in a constant state of war.
Israel remains surrounded by hostile Arab countries and has had to fight just to exist.
But it has not all been bombs, bullets, and bayonet for Israel. Its adversity-driven culture has also resulted in a boom, producing battlefield entrepreneurs that have worked stupendous economic and technological miracles which belie its tiny size and population of just under ten million people. For a country this small and hounded, its spectacular achievements are some of modern history’s most impressive feats.
In their seminal book“ The Start-up Nation: The story of Israel’s economic miracle” authors Dan Senor and Saul Singer examined in luminous detail how a community of penniless refugees transformed a land described by Mark Twain as ‘a desolate country …a silent mournful expanse,” into one of the most dynamic entrepreneurial economies in the world one which produces more startups than Japan, China,India, Korea, Canada and the UK,
According to Senor and Singer, in 2008, for each person venture capital investments in Israel were 2.5 times greater than in the United States, more than 30 times greater than in Europe, 80 times greater than in China, and 350 times greater than in India. Comparing absolute numbers, Israel—a country of just 7.1 million people—attracted close to $2 billion in venture capital, as much as flowed to the United Kingdom’s 61 million citizens or to the 145 million people living in Germany and France combined. And Israel is the only country to experience a meaningful increase in venture capital from 2007 to 2008.
Even the wars Israel has repeatedly fought have not slowed the country down. During the six years following 2000, Israel was hit not just by the bursting of the global tech bubble but by the most intense period of terrorist attacks in its history and by the second Lebanon war. Yet, Israel’s share of the global venture capital market did not drop—it doubled, from 15 percent to 31 percent. And the Tel Aviv stock exchange was higher on the last day of the Lebanon war than on the first, as it was after the three-week military operation in the Gaza Strip in 2009.”
As a country, Israel has also remained wonderfully open to migrants. At its founding, Israel became the only country in history to explicitly address in its founding documents the need for a liberal immigration policy. In 1950, Israel’s new government made good on that declaration with the Law of Return, which until now guarantees that “every Jew is entitled to come to this country.
Israel’s economic miracle is due as much to immigration as to anything. At Israel’s founding in 1948, its population was 806,000. Today, numbering over 9.364 million people, the country has grown more than nine-fold in seventy-five years.
Israel is also no diplomatic shrinking violet. The wars the country has had to fight have congealed into age-long enmity between Israel and its Arab neighbours. However, over the years, as a result of Israel’s rapid economic and technological advancements, many countries who were formerly hostile to it have sought the improvement of diplomatic ties.
Israel’s burgeoning reputation as a diplomatic and democratic heavyweight underpinned by its considered economic and technological status has made it a key player in diplomatic relations.
What more can be said of this country which produces more water than it needs despite more than half of the country being a desert? Can anything more laudatory said of a country whose startups and technological inventions have gone on to redefine irrigation, pharmaceuticals, weapon technologies and even warfare?
What more can be said of a country that was given zero percent chance of surviving at its founding but has today become a model for how to thrive in the face of adversity.
In a world riddled by conflicts and crisis, Israel points the way in how to transform adversity into advancement.
There is no doubt that an ailing world can learn a ton of lessons from this most innovative of countries.