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The Blessings of a Start-Up Nation

Several days ago, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the international economic conference in Davos, Switzerland. At a time when newspapers around
the world are full of threats of economic boycott of Israel, Netanyahu invited businesses from all over the world to learn from Israel, to do business with Israel and to share in the wonder that is Israel’s economy.

These were some of his words:

What is it that we have, aside from good macroeconomic policies, aside from market reforms, what is it that makes Israel this nexus of high technology? . . . There is something special that we have in Israel. . . The Jewish people have always treasured education and knowledge. In ancient times we were effectively the only literate people that I know of, because every father taught his son . . . how to read the Bible. . . When the walls of the ghetto broke down . . . that discipline burst out into many, many areas: into physics and mathematics, into chemistry and so on. . . So, from the Talmud to Einstein, the Jewish people were always asking questions . . and that questioning mind, I think, is something that is in our culture and I think adds very much to our capacities.

. . . to survive, we had to innovate. We didn’t have abundant natural resources. We were outnumbered; we were facing constant threats. Our neighbors even imposed upon us an economic boycott. Some world powers imposed upon us a weapons boycott. We had to innovate to survive. The birth of modern Israel, remember, was an innovation. The rebirth of the Hebrew language was an innovation. The rebirth of agriculture in our land, something we hadn’t done for 2,000 years, was an innovation. It changed our capacities in a very, very short time and we became a key player in the world community.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, backed by President Obama, continues to pressure Israel to withdraw from most of Judea and Samaria and threatens Israel with widespread economic sanctions should it refuse. Soda Stream’s ad for the US Superbowl caused major uproar all over the world because Soda Stream is located in the so-called “occupied territories.” A Dutch water company cut off relations with the Israeli water company because it provides water to the communities in Judea and Samaria. (It also provides water to Palestinians but let’s not confuse the issue with the truth). A quick read of recent headlines would have you believe that Israel was economically isolated, begging for business from international partners.

And yet, Netanyahu indicates that we are a wanted player on the international economic scene. Minister of Economics Naftali Bennett, has returned from several official visits in foreign countries to report that countries everywhere are not really interested in our political issues. They just want to know how we do it! How does a young and tiny country produce so many innovative products and contribute so much to science and technology? They want to learn from us and they want to do business with us.

What then, is the truth? Will Israel be forced to make concessions that are both painful and dangerous to avoid economic boycotts or is Israel strong enough to withstand the pressure?

Take a look at what Israel offers to the world. Intel operates four research and development centers and two manufacturing plants in Israel. Microsoft relies heavily on Israeli technology. Some 300 global high-tech giants have research and development centers in Israel.

Israelis have recently launched a program in China to assist the Chinese in their developing dairy industry. Experts in water usage have trained and equipped people in Africa and Asia for effective use of limited water resources. Medical technology and medical innovations from Israel save lives every day. And that is only a sampling of how
Israel benefits humanity.

Netanyahu listed five reasons for Israel’s success. I included two of them in the above quote. He talked about our culture of study and inquisitiveness and he mentioned our struggle to survive. Both have unquestionably contributed to our incredible drive to succeed. But that alone does not explain our success.

Netanyahu refers to the rebirth of the Hebrew language and the rebirth of agriculture after 2000 years of exile. That was an innovation but it was also a miracle, No nation has ever been dispersed from its homeland for so many years and yet preserve its identity as a nation, protect its ancient language so that it could be reborn, and remain loyal to an ancient land despite the span of centuries. Yes! Throughout the centuries, parents taught children the Bible but that did far more than encourage intellectual curiosity. It reinforced the promise that G-d would return the nation to its land. Without G-d’s blessing and without the Jewish people’s ongoing trust in His word, none of this would have happened.

And that is my answer to the question I pose above. Can Israel withstand the pressure? I believe the answer should be a resounding yes! We can withstand the pressure because we have proven to ourselves and to the world that we can succeed even under the most dire of circumstances. We are successful in business even when so many call for boycotts. We are successful because G-d has blessed us. And when we stand on G-d’s word, when we declare that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people, G-d will surely bless our efforts to hold on to that land.

Israeli companies located in Judea and Samaria provide valuable employment to local Arabs. Israel is not stingy in the blessing it receives. It shares it with the nations of the world, even as it shares it with our Arab neighbors. We can withstand the pressure but frankly, the international community would do well to abandon the language of boycott and embrace a culture of blessing. “I will bless those who bless thee.” (Genesis 12:3) Don’t boycott Israel — Bless Israel!


Sondra Baras
Director, Israel Office