Salt and pepper, peanut butter and jelly, Batman and Robin, yin and yang…U.S. cities and Israel: a surprising, yet harmonious duo that illustrates the great extent to which the U.S.-Israel relationship can boost jobs and growth through technology and investment, all while fulfilling prophecy.
One of the best examples of this is the city of Boston, where Israeli born and bred entrepreneurs who started their company in Israel and then relocated to Boston account for 3.8% of Massachusetts’ GDP. The latest Massachusetts-Israel Economic Impact Study also found that Israeli-founded companies in the greater Boston area have an extraordinary impact on the Massachusetts economy through jobs, revenue, and capital. Israeli-founded companies grew twice as fast as the state’s economy overall. How is such reliance on little Israel possible for an American state of over 6.8 million people?
In Avi Jorisch’s book Thou Shalt Innovate: How Israeli Ingenuity Repairs the World, he attributes Israel’s advancements in technology and innovation to the Jewish tradition. He explains, “Jewish mystical tradition says that when God created the universe, He drew in his breath to make room for the wonders of the world. And when God said, “Let there be light,” he sent ten radiant vessels to fill the darkness of his creation. Had the vessels remained intact, the world would have been perfect. But God’s divine force was too powerful. It shattered the vessels and scattered their sparks. The majority of them fell to the ground in the land of Israel.”
He continues, “Our purpose as human beings, Judaism argues, is to gather as many sparks as possible, to restore God’s broken vessels and make the world a better place. For many Jews around the world, it means doing good deeds, charitable giving and saving the environment. But for many in Israel, it increasingly means repairing the world through technology and innovation.”
But even more than Jorisch’s attribution of Israel’s success as the start-up nation to the Jewish faith, this success is also prophetic.
Isaiah prophesies a time in which the world’s attention will be turned towards Israel’s greatness:
“And nations shall walk by your light, Kings, by your shining radiance.” (Isaiah 60:3)
Isaiah 60:22 tells of how Israel, although the smallest, will be powerful:
“The smallest shall become a clan; The least, a mighty nation. I Hashem will speed it in due time.”
Later, in Isaiah 66:12:
“For thus said Hashem: I will extend to her Prosperity like a stream, The wealth of nations Like a wadi in flood; And you shall drink of it. You shall be carried on shoulders And dandled upon knees.”
All this is holding true today in the land of Israel.
Last month, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner announced key advancements for a half-a-billion dollar Chicago-Israel partnership between Tel Aviv University and the University of Illinois for research and development. The $1.2 billion project, promoted as “the Midwest’s answer to Silicon Valley,” intends to accelerate research at the Chicago interdisciplinary research institute, Discovery Partners Institute (DPI). This month, Chicago workshops will begin to connect Israeli and American entrepreneurs to accelerate research, development, and innovation.
Jon Medved, an Israeli-American serial entrepreneur and founder/CEO of OurCrowd, maintains that Israel’s “secret sauce” is the element of mixing the best of American and Israeli innovation cultures. “Israelis are good at product innovation, breaking rules, and getting to the product market extraordinarily quickly. Americans are good at scaling [the business] up, rolling it out, and servicing the product. When you can take those two skill sets and put them together, you get a winning combination,” he explains.
Rewalk, an Israeli innovation that allows paraplegics to walk – which Medved funded through his equity crowd-funding platform for accredited investors – exemplifies such Israeli-American teamwork. After Rewalk created their product, they received funding to scale it, then hired a CEO from Boston Scientific to help penetrate the U.S. market and get FDA approval.
David Goodtree, an expert on the Massachusetts-Israel economic relationship, investor, and advisor to many technology companies in the U.S. and Israel, hypothesizes that Israeli founded businesses driving a U.S. state’s economy is not unique to Boston and Chicago, but is rather “a proxy for the same thing that’s going on in New York and Cleveland, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, and all over the country.”
“It’s a national phenomena,” agreed Medved. “Tampa decided that it’s strategically important to compete with Boston,” referring to the recently established Florida Israel Business Accelerator (FIBA), an accelerator designed to establish and grow successful, high-growth Israeli and Florida tech ventures in the Tampa Bay Area.
Now, in Vermont, Plasan USA, an Israeli-owned advanced armor company is “neck and neck with Ben and Jerry for being the biggest employer in Vermont,” says Medved. The same phenomenon is occurring all around the U.S. and is even becoming international, with Chinese and Indian investors looking towards Israel for innovation.
“It’s about collaboration and cooperation,” said Medved.
But perhaps, it’s also prophetic.