Editor's Notes: Saul Singer, co-author of the Israel-redefining ‘Start-Up Nation,’ urges Israel and its supporters to internalize just how profoundly our phenomenal capacity for innovation can better this planet.Talkbacks (21)To our considerable sorrow here at The Jerusalem Post, our super-smart, relentlessly questioning, insightful editorial writer, Saul Singer, left the paper three years ago to write a book. To the great and still evolving benefit of the State of Israel, that book was Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle.
Along with his New York-based co-author Dan Senor, Jerusalemite Singer set out to answer the question of how our tiny country, all but bereft of natural resources and in the midst of a constant struggle for physical survival, has nonetheless managed to outstrip every other nation on Earth in terms of hi-tech innovation.
The two answered that question with such conviction and flair as to turn their book into a bestseller, with over 100,000 copies in print in its English-language edition and numerous foreign language translations emerging worldwide. So compelling was their diagnosis, moreover, that the book is gradually transforming perceptions of Israel – at least in parts of the global technology world. Start-Up Nation, Singer reports, is being read in some economies as a kind of “how to” manual – as in, how to orient your economy to maximize its talent for innovation, with the Israel experience held up as an exemplar.
But as their book makes plain, and as Singer elaborated in an interview this week, replicating the Israeli model is not so simple. There are, we hardly need reminding, unique characteristics to this country. And aspects of its geo-strategic reality, of its ability to absorb immigrants, of its need to place immense responsibility on young shoulders in the army, are central to its capacity to thrive so strikingly in the field of innovation.
That capacity for innovation, says Singer, has gradually transformed the Israeli economy over the past three decades, but it has the potential to achieve a great deal more. It is already enabling us to genuinely serve as a “light unto the nations,” Singer argues – saving lives, bettering the world. Tikkun olam in practice.
Among the examples Singer cites here are Shai Agassi’s trailblazing Better Place electric car venture, and the dramatic new approach to teaching being pioneered by Time To Know, revolutionizing the classroom. (It has been widely reported, to give one more telling instance, that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’s life was saved after she was shot in Arizona in January because the emergency medical team applied a revolutionary elasticized bandage, developed in Israel, that creates pressure to quickly staunch head wounds.)
We now need to more deeply internalize that potential ourselves, Singer says, maintain our cutting edge, and begin building deeper and wider relationships worldwide to further our positive impact.
When he stepped down from the Post three years ago, I should add, most of us knew Saul as quiet and understated, almost selfeffacing – a colleague who articulated himself most effectively in his writing. The Saul of 2011 is an extrovert with a cause, talking up Israeli innovation and its still untapped potential with almost evangelical passion.
In both incarnations, I should stress, Saul has always been kind, gracious and unimpeachably likeable. But a small, delightful subplot is that writing his book on the hi-tech transformation of Israel, and internalizing its impact, has quite evidently also transformed Saul Singer. Let’s start with some Start-Up Nation basics.
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