This book begins with the story of four people speaking at the corner of a street: an American, a Russian, a Chinese, and an Israeli.
A journalist approaches and asks: “Sorry … what is your opinion about the lack of meat?”. The American says: what is “missing”? Russian: what is “meat”? the Chinese: what is “opinion”?; and the Israeli: what is “sorry”?
This is one of the features that makes Israel the country after the US with the most Nasdaq-listed technology start-ups: Chutzpah, a mix of audacity/nerve (killing parents and asking the court for clemency because you’re an orphan) and dissatisfaction/ nonconformity, according to Shimon Peres the greatest contribution of the Jewish people. Which is bad for politics, but good for progress: sensible people adapt to the world; the foolish seek to adapt the world to them; so all progress depends on the… foolish – B. Shaw.
To nonconformity joins another cultural feature: bitzuism, namely pragmatism. A can do attitude. Just do it – Nike slogan.
The two together create a culture, e.g. in the army, not of rosh katan, that is, simply following orders, but of rosh gadol, obey but preserving the judgment and initiative, besides investing all the necessary effort. How much? Everything. Where? Where it’s needed. How long? The necessary.
This culture that ever characterized the Jewish people though never easy (it is easier to reproduce the old and to imagine the new and we are experts on what has been, nobody on what can be – Ben Gurion), it became essential to successively the birth, survival and prosperity of Israel. A country with three characteristics.
First, without an advantage of quantity that gives dimension, Israel needs quality to survive.
Secondly, in a poor land, a desert, the Israeli had to make the “guts heart”, or in the words of St. Peres “to discover the riches of scarcity.”
Finally, all reinforced by the boycott of all neighbors, who turned out to be the fathers of the Israeli technology industry by forcing Israel to develop it to survive.
Prudence required boldness, a society that more than up to date is up to tomorrow. In the words of D. Frohman, Intel’s CEO in Israel: Survival Through Success.
The result is a country with twice the US per capita venture capital; highest number of start-ups per capita in the world; and an exponentially growing economy.
And a stark contrast to the neighbors: According to the United Nations, the number of books translated into Arabic per year (in all countries) is 1/5 of those translated into Greek in Greece. And the number of annual patents in most Arab countries is dozens: 77 in Egypt, 52 in Kuwait, 15 in Jordan, etc. In Israel? 7652.
Remembering an outburst of Churchill, already a great admirer of the British people, that the Jews are the most extraordinary race ever. One may agree or not, but what is undoubtedly is that today Israel has a creativity proportional not to the size of the country, but to the dangers it has faced since its birth (S. Peres).