Those of you who follow the communal press would have seen the debate that arose as a result of my advocacy update on the J Street conference last week. Without wanting to rehash this territory, I am posting a link to my response in conjunction with the ZFA here.
In the context of discussing Israel, dialogue often focuses on politics and the conflict. In doing so we often fail to stop and acknowledge Israel’s social and cultural innovations that equally contribute to the country’s vibrant fabric. This week Israel’s vast achievements have been displayed on the world stage.
First, it has been a week of outstanding achievement for Israel with three Jewish professors, two of whom are Israeli citizens, sharing the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
The prize was won by Arieh Warshel, Martin Karplus and Michael Levitt for their study of molecules using computer systems.
Far surpassing my understanding I turn to the The New York Times, which describes their research where “computer programs use the classical laws of motion dating from Newton to track the movement of a multitude of atoms and quantum physics to describe the breaking and forming of chemical bonds.”
All three scientists are American citizens. Dr Karplus is also an Austrian citizen, while Warshel who fought in the 1967 and 1973 wars, holds Israeli citizenship too. Levitt is both a British and Israeli citizen as well.
This historic accomplishment marks Israel’s fifth and sixth win of the leading chemistry prize in under a decade, a trailblazing achievement for a country with such a small population. For a full list of Israel’s Nobel Prize accolades see this Times of Israel link.
Also this week, the Israel-focused Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem (DPPJ) took place, which is the largest prayer event in the world. Founded in 2002, the event is held annually on the first Sunday of October. According to the Algeimener, thousands flocked to Jerusalem, while other worshippers from more than 175 nations gathered to pray in their churches, homes and in group centres linked by a 24-hour conference call.
The swaying and singing, chanting and clapping was broadcast around the world by God TV (Global Christian Broadcasting) which according to its website broadcasts to 254 million connected homes.
In a public address founding chief Rabbi of Efrat and founder of the Centre for Christian-Jewish Understanding and Cooperation, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, said: “We didn’t reach out to you. You, my beloved brothers and sisters, reached out to us…you are the best friends Israel has in the world” (see this Times of Israel article for more.)
DPPJ’s founder, Rev. Robert Stearns of New York told the Jerusalem Post that “a new breed of Christian is arising in the earth.”
“One that loves Jerusalem, loves Israel, and loves the Jewish people. We are saying that the sins of the past will not be repeated on our watch.”
For Israel, this event was a great opportunity to showcase its tolerance and respect of other religions and their beliefs. The Israeli government and leadership warmly embraced the influx of Christians proclaiming their faith in the heart of Jerusalem.
On the business front, Israel’s economic edge has been showcased recently with the Start-up Genome Project declaring Tel-Aviv the Number 2 start-up ecosystem in the world.
CEO of Brand Ingenuity Group, Peter Nguyen, wrote in Forbes magazine that Tel-Aviv is quickly becoming the start-up hotspot, and he attributes this to four reasons; Jewish geography, community, military service and immigrants. You can read the rational behind his reasoning in the article linked above.
“Silicon Valley might be on its way out as the dominant tech ecosystem in the world — and Silicon Wadi is poised to take its place,” he writes.
This comes in the wake of Apple recently paying $40 million for a personal assistant app, Cue, which was co-founded by twenty-one year old Israeli entrepreneur Daniel Gross.
According to the Times of Israel “Cue links user accounts belonging to a registered individual and runs a query search for keywords within those applications or accounts, allowing uses to check social media accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts without having to sign in and check each one individually.”
Gross was born in the Katamon neighbourhood of Jerusalem and while visiting San Francisco after completing high school he got caught up in the buzz of Silicon Valley. Gross then joined a program run by Y-Combinator, an organisation that provides provisional funding for start-ups seeking to break into the Valley’s investment world.
Since 2005, Y-Combinator has funded over 550 start-ups including Airbnb, Reddit and WePay.
It’s important that every now and then we take the time to recognize Israel’s vast achievements in the arts, science, economics, medicine, technology and culture. For such a small demography Israel’s accomplishments are nothing short of remarkable. When these successes arise we should be the first to publicize and promote.
And finally, I thought I’d share a clip that has gone viral. Some of you may have seen this rap titled ‘Boycott Israel’ by Ari Lesser (which contrary to its title actually advocates for Israel against the BDS). In the short time since its release it has been viewed on YouTube over 43,000 times. Check out the catchy, powerful clip that’s spreading around the web and share it with your family and friends! Let’s see how far it can go.
Media and Advocacy Director
Zionist Federation of Australia