On February 22, Israel proved itself, yet again, to be a true pioneer of innovation and technology. Millions around the world watched as the moon lander BERESHEET (Hebrew for “Creation”), built by the Israeli nonprofit organization SpaceIL, represented the very first Israeli spacecraft to travel beyond Earth’s orbit and the first privately funded mission to the moon. According to SpaceIl investor and philanthropist Sylvan Adams, "Tiny, tiny Israel is about to become the fourth nation to land on the moon, and this is a remarkable thing because we continue to demonstrate our ability to punch far above our weight and to show off our skills, our innovation [and] our creativity in tackling any difficult problem that could possibly exist."
Later that day, I saw a post from a former Hillel student leader that I was fortunate to work with at the University of Southern California. He shared how proud he was to watch the liftoff, especially because he was part of a student organization at USC called the Tamid Israel Business Investment Group that provided consultation to SpaceIl back in 2013. Jared wrote on Facebook, “SpaceIL has come a long way since TAMID at USC consulted for them. I'd like to think we played a small role in their journey to the moon.” Jared actually went on to become the national chair of TAMID, which worked to engage business, finance, and engineering as well as students interested in learning about the startup culture of Israeli society.
Like Jared, I think we were all proud on February 22. And what’s not to be proud of?!? In reflecting on the moment, I am once again in awe of this country which, while tiny relative to most of the industrialized world, has become synonymous for innovation. Israel consistently ranks at the top of lists such as the most listed companies on Nasdaq—listed outside of the US and China (#1), start-up company concentration (#1), entrepreneurship (#2), and global innovation (#3).
Additionally, Israel is constantly on the leading edge of social innovation, culinary arts, education, and gender equality in politics and society. You may remember reading about Mobileye and Orcam. From Mobileye's impressive progress in computing technology (hello, autonomous car!) to Orcam's tiny cameras used to help the visually impaired, Israel's list of contributions to human innovation is extraordinary. But there is more, so much more! Did you know that there are over 100 sushi restaurants in Tel Aviv making it the city with the most sushi restaurants per capita after Tokyo and NYC? Women play a significant and important role in Israel. Israel chose its first woman president of the Supreme Court, Dorit Beinisch, who served from 2006-2012, and more than 44% of all lawyers registered in Israel are women.
From a local perspective, it is not lost on me that our Jewish community in San Diego is heavily invested in supporting this aspect of Israeli society. Our investment in SouthUp, a non-profit incubator, helps to create and support a larger entrepreneurial climate and ecosystem in the Sha’ar HaNegev region, making SHN a recognized startup community that promotes economic growth and activity. This is also a point of significant PRIDE for many in this community.
I have no doubt that the innovations emerging from SouthUp and from entrepreneurs throughout Israel will continue to wow people around the globe, just like SpaceIl did just a week ago. In San Diego, we can be proud of both Israel and our friends in Sha’ar HaNegev for enriching the world.