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The Tel Aviv Cluster

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The Tel Aviv Cluster

Jews are a famously accomplished group. They make up 0.2 percent of the world population, but 54 percent of the world chess champions, 27 percent of the Nobel physics laureates and 31 percent of the medicine laureates.

Jews make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, but 21 percent of the Ivy League student bodies, 26 percent of the Kennedy Center honorees, 37 percent of the Academy Award-winning directors, 38 percent of those on a recent Business Week list of leading philanthropists, 51 percent of the Pulitzer Prize winners for nonfiction.

In his book, “The Golden Age of Jewish Achievement,” Steven L. Pease lists some of the explanations people have given for this record of achievement. The Jewish faith encourages a belief in progress and personal accountability. It is learning-based, not rite-based.

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Because of the strength of the economy, Israel has weathered the global recession reasonably well. The government did not have to bail out its banks or set off an explosion in short-term spending. Instead, it used the crisis to solidify the economy’s long-term future by investing in research and development and infrastructure, raising some consumption taxes, promising to cut other taxes in the medium to long term. Analysts at Barclays write that Israel is “the strongest recovery story” in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

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For example, between 1980 and 2000, Egyptians registered 77 patents in the U.S. Saudis registered 171. Israelis registered 7,652.

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I find this to be a remarkable demonstration of the extent to which the achievements of people depend on the ideas they accept. And also a great preview of what life could be like if everyone was brought up with the right ideas!

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Hampered by an Arab nation boycott that makes regional trade impossible and endowed with precious little by way of natural resources, Israel has beaten the odds to become a major player in the global business world, especially in the technology sector. With the highest number of startups per capita of any nation in the world and massive venture capital investment, Israel is one of the world's entrepreneurship hubs. Senor, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Singer (Confronting Jihad) track Israel's economic prowess using a number of factors, including the social networks and leadership training provided by Israel's mandatory military and reserve service, a culture of critique fostered by centuries of Jewish tradition and an open immigration policy for Jews that continually restocks Israel's population with motivated people from around the world—all of which foster a business climate in which risk is embraced and good ideas are given a chance to grow. The authors ground their analysis in case studies and interviews with some of Israel's most brilliant innovators to make this a rich and insightful read not just for business leaders and policy makers but for anyone curious about contemporary Israeli culture.

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If I may be permitted a somewhat light response to this interesting piece, I have a hunch (oh! oh! watch out!). It is the result of exposure to the Burning Bush.

Moses asked G-D who are you and G-D responded: I am existence. The rest is history.

Bob Kolker

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