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April 23, 2012 11:38 am

Harvard Israel Conference Focuses on Israeli Innovation, Not War

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Harvard Museum of Natural History. Photo: wiki commons.

Israel “today draws more venture capital than anywhere in the world,” 30 times more than Europe and more than twice as much as the U.S, said Dan Senor, author of Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle and a speaker at the Israel Conference at Harvard University from April 19-20.

The Israel Conference came just over a month after another group of Harvard students held a conference to discuss a “one-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, featuring Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) advocates and others seeking to delegitimize the Jewish state.

Dr. Alan Garber, Harvard University Provost, said during his opening remarks on Thursday that Israel doesn’t have much oil, “but it has innovation and a little bit chutzpah.” Outside of Israel, all people hear about the country tends to be the conflict with the Palestinians, so this conference was the “greatest opportunity to introduce Israel as we know it,” Sharon Stovezky, one of the organizers, told JointMedia News Service.

Senor made the argument that Israel is a nation of immigrants, who “are the ultimate entrepreneurs” since “their whole lives are start-ups.” Additionally, men and women who have learned to lead in the Israeli army go on to front start-ups and lead major international companies in the country. The first night of the conference also attracted Niall Ferguson, a Harvard professor and world-renowned historian, and Stanley Fischer, Governor of the Bank of Israel.

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“Israel is among the most advanced economies in the world,” Fischer said. Ferguson emphasized that Israel is a “citadel of Western civilization in an extraordinary hostile environment.” Between 1980 and 2000, Israel had about 7,000 patents, while all the Arab countries in the region had only about 300 combined.

Stovezky said she doesn’t think politics “is a very productive way to show Israel.”

“We want people to think out of the box,” she said.

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