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Why Israel Matters to the World

October 10, 2011
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Not always recognized for their contributions to humanity, but never forgotten by news headlines, Israel has a lot more to it than just conflict, the Middle East peace process, and ancient history. Whether the world wants to acknowledge it or not, it’s a better place today because of Israel, and here are some key reasons why.

Science and Technology

Israel’s high-tech industry has garnered its share of accolades over the years, but rarely do Israeli breakthroughs or inventions make headlines on CNN or the BBC. Just outside the spotlight is an environment brimming with world-changing discoveries. One of the more commonly mentioned roles is Israel’s involvement in the development of the cell phone with Motorola’s Research and Development (R&D) efforts in the country.

However, Israel’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor has much more to be proud of. In information distributed by the ministry as part of their “Invest in Israel” efforts (www.investinisrael.gov.il), they note that Israeli companies have played roles in the Internet communications technology behind Skype (known as Voice over Internet Protocol technology, or VoIP), as well as the fact that an Israeli company (Mirabilis) was the first to present a consumer Internet chat product (later bought out by AOL). But telecommunications is just the tip of the high-tech iceberg. Among the companies that have R&D investment in Israel are Google, Cisco, Microsoft, and Intel.

Israel is also putting their inventive ways towards making the most of the environment through green technologies. The US-based company Better Place, alongside carmaker Renault, has been expected to launch their electric car and battery swap stations (essentially “gas stations” for electric vehicles) in Israel during 2011, and their primary R&D center is in Israel. In addition, Israel is world-famous for their water technologies—especially for inventing drip-irrigation, which targets the watering of plants in such a way as to better maximize water resources. Thanks to their significant achievements in the water industry, Israel has literally made the desert bloom.

Bernard Bar-Natan’s bandage

Photo by flickr/IDF

Medically, Israeli researchers are making advances in researching cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and more. And it doesn’t even take a full-fledge university team to come up with the idea for a notable medical product. An editorial from David Horovitz in The Jerusalem Post reported that a new and improved bandage used by US and British military forces was developed by Israeli immigrant Bernard Bar-Natan, who originally thought of creating the bandage during his Israel Defense Forces service.

The improved bandage was part of the kit issued to the local sheriff’s office that was at the scene of the shooting of US Congress Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head and has made an impressive recovery. While it isn’t known for certain if the bandage was actually used on Giffords following those nearly-lethal moments, it is significant that a local police force in Arizona uses a bandage developed thousands of miles away in Israel.

The West’s Best Ally

While a single Israeli helped develop a bandage that is protecting American and European soldiers, the nation of Israel is a key part of shielding the West from a list of vicious and dangerous regimes and terrorist organizations. Israel’s list of enemies is frightening and includes Iran, which is believed to be pursuing nuclear weapons. But while some may think that the West’s battle with Islamic extremists is because of American or European support of Israel, the reality is quite the opposite.

Iran, for example, in addition to its developing nuclear program, also has a burgeoning missile program. While they are believed to be capable of hitting Israel, their missile research has now also placed southern Europe in range. They could also develop a satellite missile program that could build Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the US. Clearly Iran’s sights are set far beyond Tel Aviv. As further proof, it is the US, not Israel, that is considered the “Great” Satan for Islamic extremists.

The Lebanese terror organization Hizbullah is another example of a Middle East opponent of Israel that is not afraid to reach much farther. For example, they were accused of involvement in the 1983 bombing attack on the US Embassy in Beirut. Furthermore, ABC News, among other sources, has reported US concerns that Hizbullah has connections in Latin America. Yet, while these terrifying jihadists may wish to strike deep into the heart of the West, Israel poses a serious problem to those plans. Israel’s military is the most modern in the Middle East and generally is a much more immediate concern for anti-West regimes and terror groups than the US or Europe— forcing Iran, Hizbullah, and other enemies of the West to reapply valuable time and resources.

Furthermore, Israel has taken bold steps against dangerous actors in the region in cooperation with Western nations, or at least to their benefit whether they acknowledge it or not. Perhaps the most famous example was the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981—preventing Saddam Hussein from potentially joining the nuclear club.

Fast-forwarding 26 years, Israel reportedly took another step to halt the nuclear advances of a violent dictator in the bombing of the clandestine Syrian nuclear program. Considering the vicious track record of Syrian leader Bashar Assad in brutally repressing his own people to stifle anti-regime protests, the thought of him controlling the world’s most dangerous weapons is terrifying. In yet another example, The New York Times reported that Israel also worked with the US in attacking the Iranian nuclear program with the computer malware Stuxnet—a sophisticated cyber-attack that set back the Iranian nuclear program for a time.

Beyond military operations, Israel also has proven helpful in the defense of the US and its allies via its inventiveness. For example, Israeli news agency Ynet reported that a South Korean official has expressed interest in purchasing the Iron Dome, Israel’s state-of-the-art, short-range missile defense system. Israel and the US also jointly developed a gun that can shoot around corners and are working together on missile defense. But while Israel stands in the gap between the West and radical Islamic regimes and terrorists, they are also standing up for the needy, impoverished, and disaster-struck individuals in the world.

Photo by Isranet

Israel sharing simple drip irrigation systems www.mashav.mfa.gov.il

Repairing the World

Some of Israel’s least known, but perhaps among their most impactful activities are their humanitarian and disaster relief efforts. Israel’s size would seemingly make them an unlikely candidate to do what they have done in places such as Haiti, where they received international accolades for being one of the most effective medical teams in the island nation after the massive earthquake there. Yet, it was tiny Israel, more than an ocean away from Haiti, whose medical efforts received praise from CNN. On the other side of the world, Israel also sent a follow-up medical team to help Japan after the earthquake and tsunami. And that’s just the beginning.

MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, has literally brought Israeli support, aid, compassion, and resourcefulness around the world. The agency began working in 1958, just a decade after Israel’s re-emergence as a nation. Ilan Fluss, Policy Planning & External Relations Department director for MASHAV, in an interview with Bridges for Peace, highlighted two unique and unheralded activities of MASHAV: water management in rural areas of the African nation of Senegal and small business training in Latin America.

Sitting in a desert of their own, Israel’s drip irrigation system not only revolutionized water management and agriculture in their nation, but it’s also making an impact in places such as Africa as well. In Senegal, Israel is sharing simple drip irrigation systems that use gravity, allowing rural communities there to improve use of their precious resource even in areas lacking in advanced computer technology. The program teaches the concepts behind the system, so it can be an economic model, enabling the communities to not only have enough water for growing food, but to use the system to generate income.

In Latin America, Israel is training women through The Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Center in a partnership with the Young American Business Trust to grow small business enterprises. Overall, Fluss said that more than 260,000 professionals have had some form of training by MASHAV, with a lot of them in high-level positions now.

These examples both illustrate Israel’s effort to take what they have learned and pass it on. “We would like to basically share our experiences and areas where we gained some expertise and to share them with countries with needs where we can come in and do something good,” said Fluss, who said they prefer to call it “cooperation” with those they are helping.

Fluss notes that Israel’s motivation for being involved internationally is multi-layered. Israel was itself dependent on aid in their early years and wishes to effectively return the favor. “Our sort of founding fathers and mothers of the state realized that it is important for Israel to do the same for other countries and nations around the world dealing with eradication of poverty and hunger and disease, so it is a moral obligation of the State of Israel,” said Fluss.

Like most nations, Israel has its role to play as a member of the international community, but Fluss points out that their approach is motivated by Jewish tradition. The Jewish principle of tikkun olam, or “repairing the world,” finds expression in providing medical care in an island, water in Africa, or education in a distant continent. The humanitarian and cooperative efforts also are an important part of bilateral relations between Israel and other countries.

Of course, the presentation of Israel’s image to the world by the international media rarely pictures water-needy African children finding solace and support from savvy Israelis. Instead, it most often portrays images of violence and conflict, as Israel has had to repeatedly defend itself, first against waves of Arab armies and then against waves of suicide bombers and rocket terrorism. But Fluss said that while that’s what the television says about Israel, that’s not the full picture. “The news obviously looks for the wars and for the blood, but here, it is very important for us to show and to emphasize that Israel is much more than that, and Israel is doing a lot for so many years for many developing countries.”

A Global Blessing

Israel is often presented as a land where politics, peace talks, and war are the only notable events taking place. But in reality, Israel’s phenomenal human resources, national ingenuity, and heavenly blessings have made it a significant ally to the West in the struggle against terrorism, an inventive powerhouse, and a helping hand across the globe. Indeed, the words in Genesis 12:3 still ring true: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Source: By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com

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