Make innovation, not war

Reviewing the newest must-read book.

The cover of ‘Thou Shalt Innovate,’ published by Gefen Publishing House (photo credit: REUTERS)
The cover of ‘Thou Shalt Innovate,’ published by Gefen Publishing House
(photo credit: REUTERS)
AVI JORISCH’S new book, “Thou Shalt Innovate,” doesn't only offer a glimpse into Israel's technological innovations, it analyzes the souls and motives that created them. “What I hadn’t realized was the extent to which Israel’s innovative spirit was having an impact far beyond Israel addressing some of the world's most pressing social problems,” he says.
“It quickly became clear to me that Israel was much more than the Start-up Nation. It was playing a disproportionate role in helping solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.”
Judging by its cover and by the first few pages, “Thou Shalt Innovate” seems like another book covering the well-known theme of the hi-tech innovations that Israel has brought to the world. I asked myself what is this book adding to its predecessors on this topic, such as “Start-Up Nation”? Early on, with the assistance of precise and fascinating writing, I realized that it goes far beyond Israel's story of technology. It is the story about a people and the values and backgrounds that push its citizens – without exaggerating and with no dramatization – to change the world.
In 266 pages, Jorisch, a seasoned entrepreneur and Middle East expert, exposes his readers to Israeli innovations from all aspects of life. He describes agriculture, medical innovations that have saved lives, exoskeletons that enable disabled people to walk again, and several others. In his book, he goes through the biographies and complex personalities of these innovators and, in a sense, helps solve an important part of Israel’s innovation equation. He solves not simply what the start-up nation creates, but who and why.
Jorisch invites his readers to join him on his own personal odyssey from innovation summits in the north of Israel to meetings with innovators throughout the Holy Land.
In Chapter Six of the book, we follow the innovation of Shlomo Navarro, an Israeli food storage expert. We learn how he was ultimately able to solve the food problems of many third world countries. It all began on a journey to Eritrea in 1994, where he met with villagers who rely on their local agriculture to survive. He found out that the local crops cannot survive due to bugs and insects penetrating the grains, and he realized that this ultimately means a death penalty for Eritrea and several other countries in the world that rely on these crops to survive. Navarro came up with a way to protect the villagers’ crops and ultimately save their food industry.
It is called the grain cocoon, and it is a large, sophisticated and hermetically sealed bag that using the strongest materials such as polyvinyl and chloride traps the bugs and prevents them from destroying the crops. The author uses a clever analogy, comparing Navarro with Joseph, the biblical character who saved the biggest African country, Egypt, from hunger with his brilliant mind and some would add, his Jewish “sekhel” (smarts).
Picture these Israelis – who are they? What drives them? And what is it that brings them to become the great innovators that they are. The answers are in the book. After reading the last page, I walked out to the balcony of the hotel room that I was staying in for Passover.
From the balcony, I overlooked the beautiful scenery of the Dead Sea, the Judean Desert mountains to my west, and Jordan’s majestic mountains to the east. I took a deep breath and felt the same emotion that carried me throughout this book – a feeling of enormous pride. In an age of sarcasm, and through the continued political debates that can sometimes lead to the demoralization of the Israeli people, this book serves as one of the most truthful and optimistic documents written about the Israeli people. How a nation filled with challenges and living in a tough neighborhood, small in population but enormous in heart, is saving and fixing the world.
Day after day, fulfilling an 11th command that Israelis take upon themselves every day – “Thou shalt innovate”! This book is a must read.
The writer is a student at Shalem College in Jerusalem and co-founder of speakup, a public speaking and political consulting firm