By Emanuel Storch
On Sunday April 21, Dan Senor spoke to a mixed crowd of students, professors and community members in the Nott Memorial. He was brought to campus by U for Israel, Union College Hillel, History Professor Stephen Berk, the economics department and the Economics Club. Senor is the co-author of the New York Times’ bestseller Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle. He came to Union to speak about the factors that make an economy successful, while focusing on Israel, a small country with almost no natural resources that has the most companies traded on the NASDAQ after the United States.
He mentioned that in proportion to its population, Israel has the most startup companies in the world, its unemployment rate is 6 percent and many of the technological innovations we see today are developed in this tiny country.
The Intel chip in your computer, much of the technology in your cellphone and many medical devices such as the PillCam, a camera that can be swallowed and relays real-time images of the intestinal track, are all products of Israeli innovation.
The question Senor addressed is how this tiny country, surrounded by adversaries, became a world leader in technology and a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
He focused on three aspects of Israeli society that make its economy successful. The first contributor is the Israeli Military. Young citizens, both male and female, must enlist in the Israel Defense Forces at the age of 18.
In the military, young Israeli men and women learn how to lead and problem solve. Senor related this to America by expressing that the United States must take advantage of soldiers’ talents when they return from war and recognize that the military qualifies as valuable work experience. His second point was that Israel capitalizes on its immigrants. There exists over 70 different nationalities in Israel, which is a result of massive waves of immigration from places such as the former Soviet Union, Iran, Iraq, Syria, North Africa and Europe.
Two-thirds of the country is made of immigrants or children of immigrants. When there are so many different perspectives, talents and backgrounds concentrated in one area, original ideas are born.
Senor’s third point resonated with many of the students in the room. He focused on the idea of failure. He believed that in America, the tendency to avoid failure can cause an individual to resist trying altogether.
In Israel, the idea of failure is not looked upon negatively, it is welcomed. Innovators are taught to continue to try until successful. He posited that if Americans are able to intelligently evaluate the lessons we learn from failing, then it will make the country more successful in future efforts.
While Israel is a country that suffers eternal conflict and criticism around the world, Senor demonstrated that the constant criticism overlooks the remarkable advances that this small country has made in its 65-year existence.