by Jeremy Gimpel
I love Israel. It’s the Jewish dream of 2,000 years.
It’s our homeland and the center of our people both culturally and spiritually. It is our Promised Land. With all that said and with an effort at being objective, it seems odd that, out all places in the world, the Land of Israel was chosen.
Israel is the 100th-smallest country in the world. Much of Israel is desert: barren, hot and dry territory. Within our borders, we’ve yet to find much significant natural resources.
No oil, no gold and not enough natural water to sustain a growing country. We’re surrounded by dysfunctional and tyrannical countries constantly pressuring and threatening Israel.
Truly, what is so promising about the Promised Land? Talking to a Chabad rabbi a few years ago, I asked him why he thought Jews from around the world need to live in Israel.
He told me, “Jews need to live in Israel the way fish need to live in water.” Although I loved his answer, it only raised a more challenging question. Why must the waters seem so bitter? Why are we, the Jewish people, destined to live a place that is inherently so challenging? Couldn’t the Holy Land be a little more comfortable, have a few more natural resources and have some nicer neighbors surrounding our borders? Although this question has plagued me for years, I had a glimmer of insight after attending the Water and Wastewater Management Conference in Tel Aviv this month.
A friend from America came to Israel for the first time to attend the conference. When he told me he was expecting to see camels and desert, I knew he would leave Israel a changed man. After the week-long conference, he understood what people around the globe are now starting to recognize: Israel is changing the world.
In a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, Saul Klein, a venture capitalist from London, noted, “Israel is Silicon Valley for the rest of the world.” Further, Mark Tluszcz, another venture capitalist based in Luxembourg, suggested: “On a scale of one to 10, the innovation I see in, say, Germany would be close to zero. In Israel, it is a 10.”
Israel is not just a hi-tech powerhouse; Israel is an all-tech powerhouse. Israel is leading the world in biotech, water technologies, agriculture, alternative energy solutions, environmental efficiencies and nanotechnology, and the list goes on and is only growing.
After the conference, my friend sent me a personal email expressing his wonder and amazement at what he encountered in Israel and perhaps, the very essence of the Promised Land. “A diamond develops from coal under incredible pressure for thousands of years, and its quality and eventual value is defined by the intensity of the force exerted on it over time. Without the intense pressure the stone cannot ever reach its full-potential uniqueness and beauty. Israel is a diamond surrounded by every imaginable force, both spiritually and physically. As a result of this pressure, it continues to be refined – its quality, clarity and value grow. It is one-of-a-kind, the most beautiful diamond on earth. Israel is the crystal prism through which God’s inspiration will illuminate the world.”
Israel is our Promised Land. Its multifaceted problems from lacking water to thwarting international cyberattacks on Israeli servers have challenged our minds, stirred our hearts and inspired innovation. The new solutions and technologies developed in Israel are, in many ways, products of our national struggle.
Spinal injuries and paralyzed victims sparked the creation of the ReWalk robotic exoskeleton, enabling paraplegics to walk and climb stairs without assistance for up to 12 hours a day. Israel’s lack of water inspired IDE Technologies, the leading company worldwide in desalination, with 400 plants in 40 countries. Don’t forget Netafim, the global pioneer in smart drip and micro-irrigation, which operates systems in 112 countries.
The IDF hi-tech unit 8200 has spawned countless tech companies that are revolutionizing the ways we interact with computers and the Internet. With food sources becoming increasingly scarce, Prof.
David Levy has developed a new strain of potato that can be grown in hot, arid climates and irrigated by saline water sources.
Taking advantage of the blistering sun, Israeli company Pythagoras has developed the world’s first solar window.
I could go on for hours. The list of Israeli innovations solving modern problems is seemingly endless.
Although many religious thinkers may define holiness as separation from or transcending the world’s concerns, Jewish thought teaches the exact opposite. The first commandment given to the first Jew, Abraham, was to leave his family and his land and establish a nation in a new land. Roads, government, taxes and politics hardly seem like conductors for holiness, but that is the Jewish ideal; elevating the mundane and sanctifying the secular.
Our Patriarch wasn’t told to travel to Israel, meditate on a mountaintop and contemplate the Oneness of the universe.
He was told to confront all of the world’s problems in all their earthly manifestations – the more problems and the more earthly, the greater the opportunity.
What makes the Promised Land so promising? The promise in our homeland is that it is the only place where the full potential of the Jewish people can be revealed.
What we’re seeing now is only beginning…
The author is a filmmaker, educator and journalist. He is currently the deputy director of the World Mizrachi Movement.