There is a scene at the end of Steven Spielberg’s controversial 2005 film,
Munich, that disappointed a lot of Israel’s supporters.
camera caresses the dramatic Manhattan skyline, pans over the East River and
ends hauntingly at the Twin Towers, which were still standing at the time of the
The reason many of us were disappointed with that ending
was the strong implication that Israel’s relentless drive to avenge the 1972
Munich Olympics massacre had something to do with the subsequent 9/11 terrorist
What is fascinating about that downbeat Hollywood ending is
that, many years later, close to where those Twin Towers once stood, reality
wrote a much happier ending. That ending – or, more accurately, that beginning –
was written last month when it was announced that Technion-Israel Institute of
Technology had won a global competition to partner with Cornell University and
New York City to create an international hi-tech learning center, to be called
the Technion-Cornell Institute of Innovation (TCII).
multibillion-dollar project will attract top scientific minds from around the
world and tackle the planet’s toughest problems. It will be located on Roosevelt
Island in the East River, the same river over which Spielberg’s camera panned
before stopping at that haunting shot of the Twin Towers. It will ultimately
encompass 2.1 million square feet, with space for 2,500 students and 280
professors. Cornell plans to begin offering classes in September 2012 in leased
space while construction takes place on the Roosevelt Island
Little did Spielberg know that a few years after shooting
Munich, which focused on Israel as the brutal avenger, the world would see such
a dramatic depiction of another Israel – the tiny Israel of big ideas that can
change the world.
This is the cruel paradox of the Israel story: A
country that is forced to use its wits to defend itself but would much prefer
using its wits to save the world.
Spielberg himself tried to capture that
paradox in his film. Mossad agents struggle with conflicting loyalties to their
country, their own families and their self-image. How high a price are
they willing to pay to avenge the blood of their compatriots? The erosion of
their soul? The loss of family connection? The loss of humanity?
and ongoing Israeli dilemma can easily get lost in the round-the-clock media
coverage of targeted bombings and terrorist checkpoints. The inner yearning to
create is never as visible as the outer imperative to fight your enemies. Bombs
falling make for great television.
That is why this new center of
innovation is so noteworthy. It will be visible. As visible as those
Patriot missiles that Israel deploys to catch incoming terrorist
missiles. As visible as tank formations that enter Gaza or
This new center won’t be just a book in Barnes & Noble
called Start-up Nation. It will be an enormous monument of human accomplishment,
like the Statue of Liberty, with Israel’s name on it.
It will be the
ultimate human response to an act of ultimate destruction. Near where the Twin
Towers were destroyed, a “Silicon Island” of applied sciences will rise on
Roosevelt Island that will aim even higher than those towers ever did. Here,
humans won’t just trade, they will create. They won’t just build businesses,
they will build solutions to better the world.
The downbeat ending of
Munich, which keeps Israel in the stereotypical narrative of violence, revenge
and continued destruction, has been jolted by this Israeli
Israel’s enemies won’t be able to easily “spin” this victory out
of the news cycle, because it’s not an event, it’s a monument – a permanent
living monument to human accomplishment that will answer the loss of 9/11 by
giving continuous blessings to humanity.
The cynics will say that the
world will always hate Israel no matter what. There will always be something
negative to contaminate the positive. Anti-Semitism is not supposed to make
sense, it’s a pathology that can never be erased, and so on.
That may all
be true, but it’s no reason for the Jews to abandon their role of being a light
unto the world, and to answer loss with life and destruction with
David Suissa is president of
The Jewish Journal. Elliot Julis
is an 11th-grade student at YULA Boys High School in Los Angeles and is involved
with AIPAC. Mitch Julis is an investment banker based in Los
Angeles.This article originally appeared in
The Jewish Journal of Los
Angeles. It is republished with permission.