Imagine the following:
• A camera, which can see through walls and ceilings, delineating people and motion within, allowing law enforcement and the military to more effectively take out bad guys, rescue hostages and locate bombs.
• A pair of glasses that reads to you, allowing blind or severely seeing impaired individuals to read books and prescription labels, go grocery shopping or order from a menu, affording them independence while keeping them safe.
• A water detection system that allows you to locate contamination and leaks so that you can utilize existing water for everything from drinking to irrigation. By the way, 25-30% of the world’s water is lost to leaks and the U.S. alone loses seven billion gallons of water a day. Not only that, but water is the #1 user of energy in the world, so this system saves energy as well.
• An electronic “nose”—a sensory array that mimics the way a dog’s nose works to detect unique markers in exhaled breath that reveal different cancers in the body.
• A test, which can unravel the mysteries of the mind by seeing the inner workings of the brain, its neural networks and how they fire. Rather than only being able to see the structure of the brain, you could now understand what is happening inside and diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, concussions, ADD, chronic pain, and cognitive functions or dysfunctions.
• Or, a personal favorite, how about an unhackable, frictionless program, which enables you to access all of your accounts without ever having to utilize a username or password, in fact, which renders them useless.
These innovations may sound like the work of science fiction, but they are very real and being used in real life situations today, as we speak. In fact, I had the opportunity to witness demonstrations of these inventions up close and personal at the annual AIPAC Policy Conference; because where is the ingenuity, and brilliance that are creating these modern day miracles? Israel.
It has long been known that Israel is a hotbed of research and creativity in all sorts of areas—from agricultural advancements, such as drip irrigation which has saved millions of south Saharan Africans from starvation; to medicine, where so many of us have swallowed the pill-sized cameras that take hundreds of real pictures of what’s going on inside our bodies; from technology, like the cell phones, voice mail and text messages the world relies so heavily upon; to science. Not surprisingly, Israel has the second highest number of companies traded on Nasdaq and is the second largest home to technology company satellite plants from Google to Facebook; from Microsoft to Intel. But these are just the tip of the iceberg.
Harnessing it’s greatest resource, its people and their minds, Israel has invested in an elite education system, which chooses the best and brightest for it’s most select military intelligence units, 8,200 and Talpiot, training them in areas like cyber intelligence, computer science and engineering. Following their mandatory service in the army, these young men and women go on to outstanding universities and study everything from engineering to the internet, consumer webs and computer apps; from big data (which is collecting and aggregating knowledge to create business value) to life sciences (like the brain and water); from cyber security to mobile technology.
To date, 2013 was Israel’s biggest innovation year yet: there were 5,000 start-ups; in the third quarter alone, $660 million was invested and start-ups earned $7-billion in successful exits, meaning that the companies were either acquired by another firm or that they went public; specifically, last year in Israel, 700 companies merged and 107 companies went public. And 30 percent of the investments were made by private investors, both in the early and the late stages of these company’s developments. It is no wonder that average price of an exit, a sale of merger of the company, in the last year was $83-million per company sold or acquired and that five companies exited at a billion dollars each. Just last week, there were four Israeli offerings on Wall Street, two of them IPOs; raising $400-million. There are an additional 19 IPO offerings in the works. Finally, it is estimated that there are four to five thousand serial entrepreneurs in Israel, most of who have worked for at least one other corporation before beginning their own venture. Not surprisingly, many U.S. and multi-national companies who purchased them did so to buy up the Israeli engineers working at these start-ups. There are extremely successful investment companies in the U.S. whose sole purpose is to find American investors to invest in Israeli companies and they are making money hand over fist.
It really does sound like science fiction or fantasy at least, but it isn’t. I wrote myself a big note in the steno pad I took with me on the pages where I was gathering this information from a workshop entitled, “Entrepreneurial Oasis: Israel as an Innovative Hotbed.” It said, “It’s education stupid.” Indeed, while the United States graduates half of the engineers we need, Israel graduates twice that number. If I had to put another big note on top of the page, it would have read: “It’s freedom, stupid.” With all of the threats Israel faces to its security and even to its survival, it continues to operate as a free and democratic society, investing in its youth, cultivating its greatest minds, incubating them and allowing them the space and resources needed to create the unimaginable, the stuff of science fiction and fantasy, which are revolutionizing the world in which we live. Just one example: Years ago, everyone predicted that the next war in the Middle East would be over water. After all, it has half the rainfall that it did 65 years ago for 10 times the population. Yet, today, Israel is the first, and only, water independent country in the world. It has sufficient water regardless of rainfall or usage. It’s education, stupid, and freedom, and innovation and investment in human resources.
There are still issues to be addressed in this current boom, markets to be mined, pit falls to avoid. But to those haters of Israel who are perpetrating the BDS, the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions, program against the Jewish state, they are simply on the wrong side of the economic and the moral divide. As he closed his remarks, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “we live in a knowledge-based century and Israel’s best days are ahead.” And so we will continue to love and to sanctify life, to create that which will heal and feed and nourish humanity, that which will enhance the quality of life of all of God’s people, that which will enable us to fulfill the command to choose life each and every day.
by Rabbi Rosalin Mandelberg
—Rabbi Rosalin Mandelberg of Ohef Sholom Temple attended the annual AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington D.C. with 55 members of the Tidewater Jewish community.