Will Israel lead post-COVID economy? Start-up Nation to vaccination nation

Dan Senor tells The Jerusalem Post that Israel will be roadmap to the world.

Employees of Israel's Sonovia Ltd, makers of washable and reusable antiviral masks, which the company says can help stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), work at their laboratory in Ramat Gan, Israel May 17, 2020.  (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Employees of Israel's Sonovia Ltd, makers of washable and reusable antiviral masks, which the company says can help stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), work at their laboratory in Ramat Gan, Israel May 17, 2020.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Israeli entrepreneurs are likely to be leaders in the post-COVID economy, according to Dan Senor, co-author of Start-Up Nation and host of the Post-Corona podcast.
“Israelis are good at dealing with chaos and uncertainty,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “That comes from a combination of serving in the IDF, the region they live in and the chaotic quality of Israeli life. Israelis are extremely comfortable with ambiguity, lack of certainty - they are comfortable with what we call ‘balagan.’”
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He said that despite the country’s many challenges in managing the coronavirus crisis, Israel has become the “vaccination nation,” and as such, will be able to chart the course for the rest of the world in how to handle a post-vaccination exit strategy.
On Sunday, the country rolled out phase III of its own exit strategy, opening up hotel dining halls, events and cultural performances, as well as restaurants and cafes largely for green passport holders. A green passport is a secure certificate that verifies a person has been vaccinated with two Pfizer vaccine shots.
A number of companies, from Check Point Software Technologies to Mobileye, are moving toward requiring that employees get the jab to come to work, and are finding solutions for easily confirming their inoculation. At the same time, Hadassah-University Medical Center has told its medical staff that if they are not vaccinated, they cannot work with patients.
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Senor said that the world is seeing some aspects of Israel’s “war mindset” in how it carried out its vaccine campaign, and also the power of its digital structure and data. He said Israeli health funds’ ability to communicate with citizens in an easy and efficient way helped spur mass participation in the campaign. And Israel’s ability to leverage data on those who did get vaccinated to determine the effectiveness of the campaign became invaluable.
“Every Israeli has an electronic health record and Israel is very good at enabling the head funds to accumulate the data over a period of decades,” Senor explained. “For every Israeli who is vaccinated, the health funds have the data on the effect of the vaccination up against decades of that person’s history. 
“The data is incredibly valuable and rich to anyone examining the effect of the vaccine on coronavirus,” he continued. “I don’t know of any country in the world that has that kind of data.”
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He said this information is what made it easy for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cut a deal with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla to receive so many vaccines so fast. The deal, which amounted to more than 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine coming to Israel in just a few months, has allowed nearly 5 million Israelis to get the first shot and 3.7 million to have already completed vaccination, getting a second inoculation 21 days after their first.
Now, as Israel opens its economy, Senor said, and starts to normalize, it will be able to “provide a roadmap to the world” for how to manage in the post-COVID economy.
At the same time, he noted, Israel will be able to use the lessons learned even before coronavirus to teach the world how to succeed in a changed economic landscape.
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Israeli entrepreneurs have gotten particularly good over the last several decades at being integrated into a mobile economy and becoming indispensable for larger companies that acquire them or use their services but are located far away, overseas. 
“Israeli companies play a central and indispensable role for these companies that they have very little day-to-day connection with,” Senor said. “We are in an economy where people have to learn to work efficiently when they have no physical interactions. Israelis are very accustomed to being isolated physically… Israel is this little island in the Middle East and its companies manage to make themselves central to some of the largest companies in the world.``
Finally, Israeli entrepreneurs have leveraged the crisis to develop new technologies, many of which are already benefiting the world. 
Start-Up Nation Central, which Senor co-founded, created a map of many dozens of companies that have developed healthtech countering COVID-19. That list includes companies that enable better remote monitoring and home care, like Datos, which created a mobile app designed to connect patients directly and continuously with their sources of medical care. 
That app was used to monitor the country’s first coronavirus patients at Sheba Medical Center.
Datos Health (Credit: Courtesy)Datos Health (Credit: Courtesy)
It also includes protection and prevention equipment, such as Sonovia’s reusable antiviral masks that are coated in zinc oxide nanoparticles that destroy bacteria, fungi and viruses. The company began the pandemic with its fabric and an idea and is now selling its masks in the United States and around the world. The company proved last month in an American lab test that its masks are 99% effective at warding off COVID-19.
There are dozens of other companies, too, listed in categories such as social and mental care and diagnostics and decision support. 
“Israel has an incredible story to tell," Senor said.

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This article was written in cooperation with Tikvah Fund.