Here in Israel, it’s no secret that the country is an economic success story. It’s been a topic of conversation for a couple of decades now. During the 1990s, and 2000s, the country’s high-tech industry blossomed, pulling virtually everything with it.
With so much to do, and so little time to do it in, no one bothered to chronicle this success story. They were too busy keeping up with the pace of development.
Now Saul Singer and Dan Senor have taken time out to explore the phenomenon in their new book Start-up Nation, the Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle . It makes a fascinating read for anyone who has ever wondered what exactly it is that makes Israel one of the world’s leaders in innovation.
The army, immigration, and a healthy dose of chutzpah have all come together in a heady mix to transform Israel – a tiny little nation of 7.1 million people surrounded by enemies and with no natural resources (not even water) – into an economic and technological powerhouse that has more companies on NASDAQ than those of Europe, Korea, Japan, Singapore, India and China combined.
ISRAEL21c is now running a competition, offering six copies of Start-Up Nation to readers. Click on our Start-up Nation competition page to find out more.
Filed under: General, Life, Pop Culture, Travel
We get a lot of celebrity visitors to Israel. Bill Clinton, George Bush, the Dalai Lama, Madonna
, Leonardo DiCaprio, Grover from Sesame Street – you name it, the great and glorious come here. It’s a field day for the press, who follow their every move in Israel, trying to get that one great shot of Madonna at the Western Wall, or the Dalai Lama at Temple Mount.
The newest celebrity visitor to our shores, however, crept in without the slightest bit of press hoo ha, making surprise visits to a number of top Israeli hot spots without causing any kind of media stir or even extra security. It’s Alpha Rex, the Lego Mindstorms robot. Yes, you heard it here first.
As part of Lego’s 10th anniversary for its Mindstorms robot line, the company sent out two of its Alpha Rex humanoid robots to cross the globe.
The sturdy little robots left the FIRST World Championship in Atlanta in the US in April 2008 and have been travelling every since. One headed off to tour the US, and the other – clearly more adventurous – headed west to Japan, taking in Europe, Australia, Canada, Egypt, India, China, the South Pole, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, Iceland etc. etc. etc. along the way.
They aren’t alone of course. Lego employees, fans and business associates have guided them on their long, difficult and sometimes lonely journeys, taking snaps of them at their destinations.
Now it’s the turn of Israel, where Alpha Rex along with his human guide, David Schilling, got to visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Sea of Galilee, enjoying some occasionally autumnal weather on the way
It’s not the end of Alpha Rex’s global endeavor. He’s still got quite a few countries to go – including Greece, Turkey, Saudi Arabia (hope the Israeli authorities didn’t stamp his passport), and Argentina to name a few.
At the end of it, the Lego team plan to make a screensaver showing all the places he visited. They should also consider setting it to music and putting it on Youtube. It worked for Matt Harding after all.
So what did Alpha Rex think of Israel? Wasn’t it the best place he visited? Does he plan to come here again? He declined to answer.
Israel is a country of contradictions. While the world outside sees the conflict in the clean crisp black and white of headlines, here in Israel we tend to see things in myriad shades of grey.
Take these two kids for example. Maria Aman (in the wheelchair) is a Palestinian girl from Gaza who was hit by an Israeli rocket during operation Cast Lead. Orel Ilizrov, is an Israeli child from Beersheva who was left with severe brain damage after he was hit by a grad missile fired from Gaza in the same conflict.
Against all the odds, they are best friends.
Maria was left paralyzed when her house suffered a direct hit. Four of her family were killed. Orel, an only child, is lucky to be alive. His mother threw herself on top of him in an attempt to protect him from the missile.
The children were hospitalized at the Alin Rehabilitative Center in Jerusalem and were given neighboring beds. Despite the traumas that both suffered, they ignored the conflict – as kids so rightly do – and formed a deep friendship based on everything they have in common, and not everything that keeps them apart.
Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90
Filed under: General, History and Culture, Holidays, Israeliness, Pop Culture
Israel may be an ancient land, with an ancient, not to mention, bloody history, but despite this, it doesn’t seem to be a land of ghosts.
What with Halloween coming up, I thought I’d do a story on the top 10 hauntings in Israel, expecting to find some fascinating material dating back to biblical times that would scare the pants off even veteran ghost observer Melinda Gordon, AKA Jennifer Love Hewitt. I scoured the web. Then scoured it again. There were many references to ghosts and hauntings – but only the living kind.
“There isn’t a culture of ghosts in Israel,” said an American friend who’d done similar research just a few years ago and also drawn a blank. “They just don’t have a history of it.”
I asked my sabra husband. “Ghosts!” he said, looking baffled. “We don’t have ghosts in Israel!”
But wait a minute. This is the country that spawned Paranormal Activity – supposedly the scariest movie about ghosts around today.
I carried on my research and discovered an article from Ynet last year. Apparently, the research by the German Bertelsmann Foundation showed, only 16 percent of Israelis believe in ghosts and spirits. A pretty low figure that could explain the absence of ghost stories. Compare that to the US, for example, where 48 percent of the population say they believe in ghosts , and a sizable 22 percent say they’ve actually seen or felt a ghost.
Interestingly enough, however, in the same Israeli poll, 45% of participants said they believed in angels.
It would make an interesting research paper to examine why Israelis don’t believe in ghosts. I’m sure it reveals much about the society, since ghost stories are an essential part of most cultures around the world.
Is it because they are well-grounded people with a surprisingly strong sense of optimism (angels!)? Is it because a country that has so many living enemies doesn’t have time to waste thinking about spectral enemies? Or could it be that the country, founded as it is in the wake of the Holocaust, is haunted enough by the very real loss of six million people?
I did come across one haunting – on a base in Israel. See above. Speculation runs from a speck of dust on the screen, to an energy orb, or a dead motorcyclist haunting the road.
And I’d love to hear your ghost stories too. Come on, there must be one or two stories of troubled spirits in Israel.
The evenings are getting cooler and Jerusalem is one of the first places in the country to feel the change in seasons.
In the evenings, the Old City walls are lit up, creating interesting shadows. Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90.