Yom Ha’atzmaut

Yom Ha’atzmaut

On Thursday, Israel will turn 64. It therefore seems appropriate to reflect on some of the remarkable achievements this small resource-poor country has racked up in that relatively short time.

Israel will celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, meaning ‘Day of Independence’ on April 26 this year (the date varies according to the traditional Jewish calender).

Yom Ha’atzmaut marks the day on May 14, 1948 when the Jewish leadership (the Yishuv) declared the establishment of the State of Israel, hours before the end of the British Mandate of Palestine, in implementation of the 1947 UN Partition plan. While the Jewish leadership accepted partition, the Arabs did not and surrounding Arab states declared War on Israel.  That war would become known as the ‘War of Independence’.

In light of the sacrifices that have been made to establish Israel, Yom Ha’atzmaut is preceded by Yom Ha-Zikaron, known as ‘Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day’ (see Or Avi-Guy’s post on Yom Ha-Zikaron and ANZAC Day).

Little Israel, a third the size of Tasmania, is now a global leader in technology, especially in cleantech. Without plentiful natural resources such as water and oil, from its humble beginnings Israel has been required to pursue creative ingenuity – and many believe this is the secret behind the incredible achievements of ‘Start Up’ Israel.

According to Forbes, Israel now has more scientists, engineers, and start-ups, per capita, than any other nation in the world. Numerous Israeli firms have been acquired by leading multinationals including Google, IBM, and HP. Other Israeli start-ups have gone public with more than 50 Israeli firms listed on the NASDAQ.

Arsen Ostrovsky, a legal fellow at the American Centre for Democracy and a former AIJAC policy analyst, has highlighted some of Israel’s amazing scientific, economic and environmental achievements in an article in today’s Huffington Post. He notes that Israel’s achievements include:

“Israel based Better Place which is a world leader in developing transportation infrastructure technology to support electric vehicles to reduce carbon emissions and the cost of driving, while at the same time helping reduce our dependence on oil.

Israel is also the home for medical research technology that is revolutionizing the industry and saving many lives worldwide. Vaxil BioTherapeutics, an Israeli bio-medical company for example, has produced a ground-breaking therapeutic vaccine for cancer patients which could prevent about 90% of cancers from returning, while also ‘training’ the immune system to seek and destroy malignant cells that have already invaded the body…

Israel is also a world leader in high-tech. Just ask Google, which is pouring money into Israeli start-ups, Apple who will soon open its first R&D center outside its California headquarters in Haifa Israel, or Microsoft, which is setting up a new research center and innovation incubator in Tel Aviv. It is no wonder that the likes of the Wall Street Journal have recognised Israel as the ‘Start-Up Nation,’ while Bill Gates has called it a ‘hi-tech superpower’.

Those looking to invest outside the United States, which is currently experiencing financial woes at home, should also look no further than Israel. According to the IMF, Israel’s economy grew by 4.7% in 2011 (as opposed to 2.5% in the U.S.), more than double the average for members of the OECD group of developed countries, with unemployment at a record low of 5.4%. While according to the latest Bloomberg Riskless Return Ranking, Israel has produced better risk- adjusted returns than all other developed stock markets in the past decade.’…

And Israel has managed to achieve all the above while having to spend more per capita than any other country on defence against implacable enemies whose primary goal is to see her destruction.”

These achievements while remarkable only scrape the surface of Israel’s global contributions.  To highlight some of Israel’s little known achievements, Israel 21c – a non-political, not for profit organisation has produced a short video, that begins with ‘What does made in Israel mean to you?” The video then showcases Israeli innovations in science, medicine, agriculture and the arts that have enhanced peoples lives across the world, changing our reality, from mobile phone technology, to electric cars, water desalination and innovations that help paraplegics walk.

Despite all the disappointments, complexities, and politics associated with the still unresolved Arab-Israel conflict, Israel’s innovations are a remarkable global achievement that all supporters of Israel can be proud of, especially at a time when so many seek to unfairly delegitimise the State of Israel.

Sharyn Mittelman