The genesis of Israel’s next economic and moral transformation

Next level growth and impact will come from harnessing Israel’s and the Jewish people’s values and scaling companies that can advance the dignity of life for the billions of people.

THE TEL AVIV skyline (photo credit: REUTERS)
THE TEL AVIV skyline
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel’s miraculous transformation from an agricultural economy to an industrial and then digital one is poised for another inspired leap forward. The genesis of this impending economic metamorphosis is hidden amid the creation story and can reignite a Jewish sense of mission in the world.
Again we roll back the Torah scroll, and celebrate creation and the creation process. Turning back time, we find the blueprint for our future.
The drivers up until now for the Start- Up Nation have been the military, research universities, immigrants, culture of challenging authority, and the smallness of our domestic market that forces new businesses to think globally. Yet Judaism itself rarely gets credit or is tapped, even though it has existed for thousands of years before our Third Commonwealth and the Jewish people has always represented a unique, creative, and entrepreneurial spark.
Mark Twain’s summary in Harper’s of the Jewish people’s curious ability to achieve across a wide spectrum of fields came out 100 years before Waze and Iron Dome and 50 years before Israel’s Independence. The Jews’ “contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also way out of proportion to the weakness of [their] numbers,” wrote the celebrated author.
Just this week, the World Economic Forum released its annual survey of the planet’s most innovative nations and little Israel came in second. Last year, in a similar study on clean-tech, little Israel led the world. Israel once in a while scores a Nobel Prize, but every year Nobels are awarded to Jews – even if Bob Dylan is a no-show at the ceremony.
Imagine if Judaism and the global Jewish community could super-charge the Start-Up Nation – this is the new frontier. A Start-Up Nation with a purpose.
With a boost from Judaism’s disruptive role in history and our appreciation for Genesis, the 4,000 start-ups in Israel can be seen as acts of creation, with a large number receiving angel funding from Jews around the world. Every Israeli and nearly every Jew knows the story of creation; it is our mythic angel round.
God, the single-actor entrepreneur in Genesis, makes things happen, with a series of simple and replicable verbs.
And only after God declares at each stage that “it is good,” that God taps a team for the most difficult and final act of creation: humanity. “Let us make Man in our image, (Genesis 1:27),” the Ultimate Entrepreneur announces to the team, largely attributed by commentators to be angels.
This process is repeated across the cafes and incubators all over Israel every day. A coffee shop culture of cooking up ideas in discussions, creating ideas out of nothing, creating companies out of seeing the world in a different way; of differentiating our ideas from existing ones; taking the risk and just doing it; and making it through the seed round.
And then, when the groundwork has been prepared to go global, you need to build a team, whose purpose is to replicate and scale (be fruitful and multiply) and conquer the global market.
There are more than a billion people without access to clean water, 2 billion without access to electricity or burning dirty and expensive diesel fuel, and about a billion people suffering from hunger insecurity.
The rabbis debate what is the most important Jewish teaching and there is a battle between the Golden Rule and in whose image we are all made. The Golden Rule loses. Note the majesty, and repetition, in Genesis 1:27: “And God created man in God’s image; in God’s image God created man; male and female God created them.”
Water, energy and food – these are the necessary building blocks for human life and therefore for affirming God’s image, and these three pillars of life grace this week’s Torah portion. God’s spirit hovers over the waters (1:2), light is created (1:3), and all manner of vegetation is provided for humanity to eat (1:29).
I propose that the next phase of Israel’s economic development be in the industries that advance and affirm God’s image. In doing so, Israel can become a superpower of goodness in the world.
I had the privilege to accompany Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu not only on his historic visit to East Africa, but also recently to the United Nations, where we presented, along with a handful of other companies, what Israel can do to advance development in Africa.
It was enthralling to see Israeli companies produce miracles: pulling water out of thin air, advancing painless male circumcision as an anti-AIDS strategy, growing a garden in a box without soil, and taking the energy from the illumination in the sky from the fourth day of creation and enable it to power a nation, to power development.
Golda Meir said in 1975, “The truth is that we did what we did in Africa not because it was just a policy of enlightened self-interest, but because it was a continuation of our own most valued traditions and an expression of our own deepest historical instincts.”
The exits and IPOs of new Israeli companies will continue because the engines of innovation in Israeli society are strong. But next level growth and impact will come from harnessing Israel’s and the Jewish people’s values and scaling companies that can advance the dignity of life for the billions of people who are hungry, thirsty and seeking God’s renewable light to shine upon them from Zion.
Yosef I. Abramowitz is CEO of Energiya Global Capital. He can be followed @KaptainSunshine