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September 1, 2014 11:56 am

You Are Israel’s True ‘Start Up Nation’

avatar by Eliana Rudee

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Book cover of Start-Up Nation.

Israel is the Start-Up Nation. This is what we are constantly told. Despite continuous wars, Israel has more high-tech start-ups per capita than any other nation in the world.

While this conception is indeed true and inspiring, Israel as the Start-Up Nation does not end with the economy, nor is economic success the most amazing start-up that Israel fosters. The most amazing type of start up that Israel cultivates is YOU – those who travel to Israel, advocate for Israel, and and find yourselves in Israel.

To “start up” means to embark on a venture or undertaking, to begin a journey of development, and to find one’s place in a market. The success of a start-up depends on bottom-up research, partnerships, and investors. Each of these aspects is also vital to the success of a human start-up – an individual who embarks on a journey to find his or herself. Following this process, the goal is a return on investment. And Israel is effective in fostering these human start-ups and securing the returns.

My story is just one example of how Israel is the nation of human start-ups.

As a freshman in college, I received a hostile anti-Israel email sent to the entire student body. I had just gotten back from my first trip to the Jewish State on a science program and admittedly, I did not know much about the conflict. So I took it upon myself to learn more so I could defend Israel on campus. I saw a need in the market of discourse on Israel.

Next, I found partners among pro-Israel organizations. I applied for many fellowships so I could learn more about Israel and I was able to attend trainings and leadership seminars. With these partners’ help, I started my own pro-Israel club on campus.

Then, Israel invested in me. In 2013, I participated in the Career Israel program, a Masa program that receives much of its funds from the Israeli government. I received a scholarship to participate in an internship, travel the country, and learn Hebrew.

After living in Israel for five months, and out of my love for Israel that I had fostered, my love for Judaism began to grow as well. Through informal courses about Judaism and attending Shabbat meals almost every week with families in Jerusalem, I finally connected to my history, culture, and faith in a way I had never before.

Israel helped me find myself, and now, I plan on returning the investment. Last year, I spoke at the Israeli Presidential Conference at a panel about the Future of Jewish Leadership. There I met the director of the Core18 program, a social entrepreneurship program based in Jerusalem, which helps fellows actualize their big ideas for the global Jewish community. Through this program, I am working on a new social venture to improve the conditions of Israel and the Jewish world.

The start-up of me has been a process of opportunities arising and leading to further opportunities. This has occurred in large part due to the incentives and investments provided by Israel and the Jewish community.

And the return on investment does not end with my own individual self-knowledge. Many other young Jewish leaders who have been a part of the start-up nation contribute inspiration, energy, engagement, and growth in the Jewish community and in Israel. This passion, often inspired by the State of Israel, is one of the strongest and most promising returns on investment in the Jewish community.

Eliana Rudee is a contributor to the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. She is a Core18 Fellow and graduate of Scripps College, where she studied International Relations and Jewish Studies. Follow her @ellierudee.

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