The world well knows of Israel’s military prowess in protecting its citizens against threats of terrorism and the even greater threat of a nuclear armed Iran. If one were to put the word “Israel” on a Rorschach test, the association, for most people would be to “conflict,” “wars,” and for some the continuing dispute with the Palestinians and the entire Arab and Muslim world. These images and associations are, tragically, an important part of Israel’s history and reality. It is not, however, Israel’s chosen identity. Most Israelis crave peace, normalcy and the end of conflict. They want to turn their swords into plow shears and get on with the business of helping to repair the world.
What is truly remarkable about Israel is that in the face of 64 years of unremitting hostility, warfare and terrorism directed against the Jewish state and its citizens, Israel has managed to contribute more to the world, on a per capita basis, than any country in history. It will continue to do so even if the conflicts continue. Imagine how much more it could do for the world as a peace dividend from the end of the conflict.
Israel is so much more than “the conflict.” For many of the world’s ills, it is an important part of the answer.
Once people’s eyes are opened to Israel’s promise and her contributions to modern society, they realize how close-minded you have to be to ignore the tremendous potential that exists within this tiny nation. In almost every modern discipline, Israeli innovators have changed the world for the better. In medicine, researchers have designed methods to better diagnose and treat some of humanity’s most debilitating conditions. In computer science, Israeli inventions are integral to the vast majority of personal computers in use around the world and to business, industry and even popular devices in high demand for our entertainment.
Israel has succeeded in rallying its bitter experiences on the battlefield to design solutions for the handicapped, offering them greater accessibility and mobility. And in a nation where much of the country lies in arid climates, Israeli innovators have literally made the desert bloom through drip irrigation and water reclamation, which are now being implemented all around the globe.
This is just a glimpse into the world that is Israel’s modern day renaissance, but it reveals how there is so much more that so many in the international community chooses to ignore when it comes to understanding the real Israel.
Towards that end, I am encouraged by a series of ongoing initiatives that channel this “positive spirit” in engaging a whole new side of public diplomacy on behalf of the Jewish State. Among the most significant has been the recent release of a groundbreaking documentary film narrated by Tal Ben-Shahar, an Israeli visionary voted a favorite lecturer at Harvard. The film, Israel Inside, which has been met with critical acclaim since its recent release, successfully shows that the time has come to focus on what is great about Israel, instead of obsessively responding to its detractors.
History has made quite clear that the Israeli people will always have their bitter discreditors, including those committed to violence with the aim of destroying the nation. But history has also taught us that while Israel can never lower its defenses and must remain committed to protecting its citizens against all threats, we must also seize the opportunities to highlight her numerous positive aspects.
The challenge, therefore, falls upon us as advocates for the Jewish State to find innovative and effective ways to meet this challenge. Presenting the positive case for Israel’s contributions to the world—past, present and future—is an important aspect of meeting that important challenge.
Alan Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor at Harvard Law School and the author of “The Case for Israel.” A free online stream of Israel Inside will be available on until May 18th by visiting www.israelinsidethemovie.com