The Secret to Israel’s Success — Avi Jorisch
The Secret to Israel’s Success — Avi Jorisch
A country the size of New Jersey is a world leader in innovation … In his book, Thou Shalt Innovate: How Israeli Ingenuity Repairs the World, Avi Jorisch describes 15 extraordinary Israeli innovations that make the world a better place. And in this episode, Jorisch and host Charles Mizrahi discuss how the country’s faith, culture and people have influenced their creation.
- An Introduction to Avi Jorisch (00:00:00)
- The Secret to Israel’s Success (00:03:20)
- The Importance of Failure (00:11:18)
- Diversity in Innovation (00:14:11)
- Making the World a Better Place (00:16:12)
- United Rescue Emergency Response (00:18:28)
- Drip Irrigation (00:23:10)
- The Lame Shall Walk (00:27:24)
- Israel’s Iron Dome (00:31:44)
- A Camera You Can Swallow (00:37:17)
- Problem-Solving Spirit (00:38:35)
Avi Jorisch is an author, entrepreneur, and activist. During his travels across the Middle East, Jorisch studied Arabic, Islamic history, and philosophy. He has served as a policy advisor for the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. And he was also a terrorism consultant for the U.S. Department of Defense.
In addition, Jorisch is the founder of IMS — a merchant processing company — and Red Cell Intelligence Group. His written works cover Middle Eastern conflicts and threat finance. And he brings his entrepreneurial experience and passion for Israeli culture to his latest book (below).
Before You Leave:
AVI JORISCH: Israel really is going far beyond its borders and curing the sick, feeding the hungry and helping the needy. It’s solving problems when it comes to AI, water security, food security and technology. In all these realms, Israel is making a difference.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: My guest today is Avi Jorisch. Avi is a former official in the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Defense and founder of IMS, a merchant processing company. He’s the author of five books. And his latest book, Thou Shalt Innovate: How Israeli Ingenuity Repairs the World, has been translated into more than 40 languages.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: In this book, Avi profiles wonderous Israeli innovations that are collectively changing the lives of billions of people around the world. I recently sat down with Avi and talked about why Israeli innovators of all faiths feel compelled to make the world a better place.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Avi, thanks so much for being on the show. I greatly appreciate it.
AVI JORISCH: Charles, it’s great to be here. Thanks for having me on.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: OK folks, the name of the book is Thou Shalt Innovate: How Israeli Ingenuity Repairs the World. So, this book has been translated into more than 40 languages?
AVI JORISCH: It has done quite well. It’s now in 35 languages I think. It just came out in German last week. The book has been received quite well internationally.
AVI JORISCH: People around the world are reading a positive series of stories — as it relates to Israel. And frankly, Israeli innovations are curing the sick, feeding the hungry, helping the needy and solving these grand, global challenges that we face on planet Earth — [such as] water security, food security, space and artificial intelligence. [The book is about] how a country the size of New Jersey is helping solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: OK, so here’s my question for you. You wrote this book, and it’s a really great read. I think you take about 15 different innovations that came out of Israel and share them. And in the back of the book, you have Israel’s milestones of great innovations — starting from when the state was founded in 1948. You also talk about why Israel is such an innovative country.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: But before we get into that, here’s my question to you: Why 35-plus languages? That means maybe 40 to 50 different countries. Why has this book been so popular outside of Israel and around the rest of the world?
AVI JORISCH: All I can say is that human beings love great stories. And as we face an inflection point on Earth — where for the first time in history, we have control over our destinies — people all over the world are trying to figure out how we will shape the future. How do we make this a more positive place?
AVI JORISCH: I’m looking to countries that are helping solve these challenges. And Israel is one of the places that is batting far above its weight and making an impact around the world. And that is a story that people want to read and are curious about.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: You wrote this book in 2018, right?
AVI JORISCH: That’s right. It came out in March 2018.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: OK, so a lot has happened in the past two years. But what I find so amazing — and you put this in the back of the book — is that Israel has over 300 research and development centers owned by multinational companies in various fields, including Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Intel and Microsoft.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: China, India, and the United States now look to the Jewish state to help solve the emerging water needs. Universities around the globe are forging strong partnerships. Is there any other country that you know of that has so much — in terms of resources by multinationals — in one country?
AVI JORISCH: I will say this: I’m obviously a huge fan of what comes out of Israel and find the stories that I’ve written about to be extraordinarily exciting and inspiring.
AVI JORISCH: Israel really does bring together a whole host of countries and shows them a pathway forward. It’s not the only country in the world that’s doing that. Actually, I think the Bloomberg index ranks Israel fifth when it comes to the most innovative countries in the world. So, it’s not the most innovative.
AVI JORISCH: I think where Israel shines is in its innovations that are making the world a better place. And for all of you listeners today, I always say: “Israel is not a paradox.” It has problems just like every other country around the world. It has problems between the very rich, poor, its Arab neighbors and resource scarcity.
AVI JORISCH: I think what differentiates Israel is this idea that it feels it’s taking ownership over the future course of human events. And it is playing a meaningful role in solving these grand, global challenges. It is a message that resonates around the world.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, why is it that this state — which is the size of New Jersey and has eight or nine million people. I think there are more people taking the New York subway system over two days than there are in all of Israel. I think this country is No.1 in terms of foreign countries that are on the Nasdaq. I think you mentioned that somewhere.
AVI JORISCH: Outside of the United States and China, Israel has more companies listed on the Nasdaq than any other country in the world. So, you’re asking: “What’s the secret to Israel’s success?”
CHARLES MIZRAHI: What’s in the water or the DNA that makes this so?
AVI JORISCH: I’d say that it rests on four principles. The first is diversity. Israel is one of the most diverse places on the planet. It has Christians and Muslims of every stripe and variety and Jews from all over the world. That’s one.
AVI JORISCH: Two, is this idea of failure. In most of the world, failure is looked down upon. In Israel, failure is part of the process. And as every business owner and innovator will tell you, in order to succeed, you’ve got to fail and fail multiple times.
AVI JORISCH: Just think of the light bulb — it took 1,000 filaments before the light bulb was created, and only on 1,001 were we able to create the light bulb. So, it’s the idea that if you haven’t failed in one or more of your companies, people will look at you like you’ve done something incorrectly.
AVI JORISCH: The third [principle] is Israel’s secular institutions. Israel has two big primary institutions that are secular, and those are all but one of its universities and the military. And we can talk about the role of the military, since I think that plays a special role, too. We can circle back to that if you want — if your listeners are interested.
AVI JORISCH: And the last [principle] is the idea of the prophetic tradition. For the last 3,900 years, the prophets of the Children of Israel have been calling on us to cure the sick, feed the hungry and help the needy. No less than three times a day, there’s a very special Jewish prayer that’s uttered.
AVI JORISCH: And I say this in a cultural sense, not necessarily a religious sense. In a cultural sense — with the l’takkein olam b’malchut Shaddai — we are instructed to repair the world in the image of God. No less than 10 times in the cornerstone booklet called The Missioner — which is the underlying book for all Jewish law — it instructs us to engage in something called tikkun olam: the idea of repairing the world. You can’t three times a day utter the words of curing the sick, feeding the hungry, helping the needy, repairing the world and bringing more light the world without it having a deep impact on the cultural DNA of your people.
AVI JORISCH: And ultimately, those four things combined deeply impacted the founders of the State of Israel. David Ben-Gurion was the first prime minister of the Jewish state. And in 1948, he stood at a lectern and said two extraordinary things.
AVI JORISCH: First, he said that after 2,000 years of wandering, the gates of the State of Israel are officially open again, and our moment has arrived. And the Jewish people are welcome to come home and play a meaningful role in making the world a better place.
AVI JORISCH: Secondly, he said: “Israel has been granted the great privilege and the obligation to tackle some of the greatest challenges of the 20th century.” He seemed to be saying that — at the very heart and soul — one of the raison d’etre of the State of Israel was to not only protect and enrich the lives of its citizens but also go beyond its borders in hopes of making the world a better place.
AVI JORISCH: And you’re seeing that in technology today. Israel is going far beyond its borders, curing the sick, feeding the hungry and helping the needy. It’s solving problems when it comes to AI, water security, food security and technology. In all these realms, Israel is making a difference.
AVI JORISCH: Now, if you look 10 years into the future — I want you to pretend that it’s 2030. By 2030, some extraordinary things are going to happen. We’re going to have humans on the moon, and we’re going to be on our way to Mars. Scientists are predicting that by 2030, Parkinson’s, essential tremor, Tourette’s and cancer — big diseases — are going to be a thing of the past.
AVI JORISCH: [Scientists predict] that we’re essentially going to be running on green energy by 2030 and that computers are going to process faster than the human brain. For the first time in human history, we’re going to have something that processes faster than our brains — which means that we’re going to have thoughts that we’ve never had before.
AVI JORISCH: The world is going to fundamentally look different in the next decade or two. And I challenge you to look at these grand, global challenges. I challenge you to look at every one of them, and you will find an Israeli who is looking to solve those grand, global challenges. And for countries around the world that are looking to solve these problems and make a meaningful difference in shaping the destiny and future of the world, the future is bright.
AVI JORISCH: And that’s why I’m so excited about the future of the State of Israel. I’m excited about where humanity is headed over the course of the next decade or two.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: So basically, what you’re saying is it’s something that’s tied into the DNA of Judaism — of repairing the world and not sitting back and letting someone else take care of it. It’s your obligation to make the world a better place, to innovate and constantly solve problems, cure diseases, make deserts bloom and so on. Is that right?
AVI JORISCH: It is certainly part [of it]. Every country and every people have a unique aspect to their DNA. And this one is embedded in the Jewish people’s DNA. It’s why I named the book Thou Shalt Innovate — the idea [being] that it represents, in my mind, the unwritten commandments that we are here to repair the world. Our most sublime hope has been to do that.
AVI JORISCH: And as we have wandered the planet over the course of the last 2,000 years, we have finally come home. The moment of the Jewish people in the State of Israel has a right. And it is a moment that I think we have been waiting [on] for a very long time. That is enshrined in the State of Israel’s national anthem — Hatikvah — which means “the hope.” That hope has been around for 2,000 years, and we are finally here to exercise — or strive for — our most sublime hope.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: This is a book that you published in 2018, but you mention failure. I remember in 2019, Israel sent a spacecraft to land on the moon. And during the descent, it crashed. President Reuven Rivlin said: “Tomorrow, we start number two.” Beresheet 2 was the project.
AVI JORISCH: So, I interviewed the two founders of SpaceIL. And I think your listeners will be excited to learn that Beresheet 2 is in the planning stages, and it has talked about a whole host of scientific experiments. The next challenge that it’s going to solve is: How are we going to grow food on the moon? The next experiment will be getting a satellite craft to land on the moon and try to plant food so that humans can eat it while they’re there.
AVI JORISCH: It is a mind-bending experiment to think that in 10 years, we’re going to have humans there. We’re going to be planting food on the moon and drinking water that’s on the moon already? This is the beginning of stepping outside of Earth — this cradle of civilization — and moving beyond [it]. We are at an exciting point in human history.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, we have a country that’s in a very bad neighborhood, has been under attack and in a state of war with its neighbors since its founding — for the past 73 or so years. Yet, with very little natural resources, it has been able to innovate and become a world leader in innovation.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: You’re basically saying that it’s not only baked into the DNA of the Jewish state, but it’s also the culture of trying, innovating and not being concerned with failure. Failure is just another opportunity to see what didn’t work and find a way that it can work.
AVI JORISCH: You captured that beautifully. The fact that Israel has been at war for … let’s just say the last 100 years or so. The country has been around since 1948, so it’s technically 73 years. But it certainly predated the State of Israel. While painful and sad, it has certainly propelled its inhabitants to be a much more resilient society and look far beyond the borders.
AVI JORISCH: And I believe that in the next decade or two, Israel — and its neighbors — will be among the most peaceful, verdant places on Earth. Just look at the last year or two. Israel has crafted agreements with four of its Arab neighbors — the UAE, Sudan, Bahrain and Morocco. It is an extraordinary moment, Charles. And I hope we’re on our way to more peace agreements and becoming a start-up region.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I think what people don’t realize is that the country only has nine million people. And out of those nine million people — it’s not only Jews who live in Israel. I think Israeli Arabs make up 1.5 million people or so. I don’t know what percentage of population that is…
AVI JORISCH: [About] 20%.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, 20% of the population are Israeli Arabs, who have the same rights as every Israeli citizen. You have Christians, Muslims and Palestinians who are living in the territories and are also the beneficiaries of this amazing innovation. Is that right?
AVI JORISCH: That is right. And I think that if you look at the stories I feature in the book, almost every single one has Arabs and Jews working together — not every story but a lot of stories. The Israeli Arab population plays a meaningful role.
AVI JORISCH: I’ll tell you an interesting story from the book — the GPS for the brain. For those of your listeners who have Parkinson’s, they will be aware of the fact that something called “deep brain stimulation” is how you make an impact on those afflicted.
AVI JORISCH: What most listeners will not be aware of is the fact that DBS — deep brain stimulation — was developed in France. But it took an Israeli scientist at Hebrew University to discover that if you pulse the basal ganglia of the brain — right at the base of the cranium — you could reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s. The problem is that if you don’t get to the exact spot, you either turn someone into a vegetable or kill them.
AVI JORISCH: Here comes an amazing Israeli Arab couple from Nazareth — Imad and Reem Younis — and they develop something called the GPS for the brain. That GPS allows surgeons all over the world to get to that exact spot on the brain by using sound and pulsing the brain. And if you look at many of the stories featured in the book, you have this amazing diversity that takes place.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Hang on a second. I want to pick some of the stories here because I knew of many of them, but the way you tell them … First of all, the book is well worth getting because it’s a quick read. It’s 15 chapters on new innovations — segmented by global market solutions, technology, a small nation with a big vision and a couple of chapters that set the stage in terms of Israel’s DNA.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: But I think you start almost every chapter with a biblical quote or some type of quote attached to that chapter, where you try to see what motivated that innovation. You can’t be 100% sure, but you can see where there is a scriptural imperative for people to innovate.
AVI JORISCH: Here’s what I will tell you. I interviewed nearly 150 people for the book. It was one of the most inspired projects that I’ve ever undertaken. And I felt like my DNA changed as I interviewed people for the book. I constantly checked myself and asked the innovators: What motivated you? Why did you do this? Why did you start this company? Why did you start this venture?
AVI JORISCH: And in almost all of the cases, they started with the imperative of “I am here to make the world a better place. I must solve a big problem.” And for those who didn’t start with that basic premise — although, the vast majority did — they eventually came to that conclusion on their own. And it became their life force. It became the reason why they got up in the morning.
AVI JORISCH: When you talk to these innovators, they’re moving on a plane unlike the one you and I live on, Charles. There’s a vision that they wake up every morning with. They are playing a fundamental role in making the world a better place.
AVI JORISCH: It inspires me, and I feel it’s already playing an important role in inspiring my children. Before they go to bed, I put my kids down. I have small children [who are] 10 and six. And I consistently tell them about the challenges that we face on the Earth and innovators who are striving to make the world a better place.
AVI JORISCH: And so, one of the stories I’ll share with you is — just before the pandemic, I was with my kids at a tech conference. And one of the innovations featured was in the first chapter of the book. It’s an organization called United Hatzalah — or “United Rescue” — and these are the guys who have revolutionized emergency medicine.
AVI JORISCH: So, Charles, if you were to have a heart attack right now in the studio — Heaven forbid — how long do you think it would take before an ambulance came to your studio in Brooklyn?
CHARLES MIZRAHI: If I called Hatzalah, then probably quickly. If I called 9-1-1, I would think 15 minutes.
AVI JORISCH: So, the average in the United States is 21 minutes. And in a country like Israel, that’s experienced a war on terrorism over the course of the last 73 years, 21 minutes is way too long. So, this amazing Israeli organization called United Rescue did three extraordinary things.
AVI JORISCH: First, its founder, Eli Beer, brought together 6,000 emergency responders — Muslims, Christians and Jews. That amazing diversity aspect powers the Israeli start-up ecosystem.
AVI JORISCH: Secondly, each and every one of us has a smartphone. Generally, when we want to call a cab, what do we do? We don’t call a cab anymore. That’s so 1985. What we do is press a little button on our smartphones — Uber, Gett, Via and Lyft — and it geospatially locates the three nearest cabs. And then, the one that’s closest comes to you.
AVI JORISCH: Instead, Eli Beer geospatially located the five nearest emergency responders — volunteers who are not paid — in order to get to the scene of a medical emergency. I’m sure you’ve ordered pizza from Pizza Hut. He gives many of these volunteers a Pizza Hut-looking moped with a box in the back that, instead of carrying pizza, carries medical supplies.
AVI JORISCH: Charles, do you know what the national average in Israel is to get an emergency responder to the scene of a medical emergency?
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I do, but you say it.
AVI JORISCH: It’s three minutes. And in every major Israeli city, it’s 90 seconds. Now, it would be enough if Eli Beer said: “I’m just going to do it in Israel. I don’t need to go anywhere else.” Today, that innovation is in nine countries around the world, including Jersey City. Now, bringing it back to my kids…
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I want to tell you something before you talk about your kids. I remember seeing Eli Beer in Brooklyn. He came to Brooklyn, New York — one of our synagogues. And he had one of those mopeds outside. We all thought it was a great idea because we have a volunteer network that’s an ambulance service, and it gets there within minutes. Same thing, but they basically send out an alert, and anyone who’s in the area runs over.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: But he really perfected how it’s done. I think we had a problem in New York with regulations not allowing mopeds to do it — which is such a shame, especially with all this traffic.
AVI JORISCH: It was actually even more sad than that, Charles. It’s the idea that we couldn’t get the law right for the Good Samaritans. There was insurance liability … It’s really one of these things where have to fix the law.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah, it was sad. Because of the density in Brooklyn — I think there’s four million people — I don’t think there’s anyone who could get to someone else within 60 seconds. That’s how dense the area is. It also has to do with how many volunteers there are and where they’re located.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: And we thought his idea of getting through traffic with the moped was amazing. He was trying to raise money. It wasn’t an issue. Then, we ran into City Hall, which is a crime.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: A few years ago, we had a child choking on my block. They put that call out, and I saw people in my neighborhood running. I think it was 2:00 p.m. or 3:00 p.m.— just running to this house a few doors away from me.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: And within 60 seconds of that phone call, they had six or seven volunteers there. Then, they had the ambulance down the block. Then, they had the police car. If they were waiting for 9-1-1, that kid would have been dead.
AVI JORISCH: Think of the emergency responders that we have around the country. We’ve certainly got millions of emergency responders. Everyone has a smartphone, and you’ve got X number of mopeds that we could leverage for this use. Think of the number of lives that we could save in this country — or in major cities like New York, San Francisco, L.A., Chicago and Washington, D.C. It makes me sad.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: But that goes back to Israeli innovation — which is basically: “Here is the problem. We’re going to find the solution.” It’s that cockiness. It’s that: “I’ve got this” and “Alright, we’ll find it. It’s not a big deal. We will figure this out.”
CHARLES MIZRAHI: When you read about some of the innovations that you showcased — and there are so many more that came out in the past two years. You look at them and say: “Common sense.”
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Before you tell me about your kids — because I do want to hear that — talk about drip irrigation. It’s virtually everywhere in the world today and is making places green with just a few inches of rain a year.
AVI JORISCH: I’ll even zoom out for a minute. In Israel, 60% of the country is desert. It’s the world’s one and only water superpower. It has more water than it knows what to do with, and it has leveraged five innovations to make the world a much greener place. The first is drip irrigation. Drip irrigation [involves] these little plastic tubes that emit a micro amount of water. Today, it has been used by over a billion farmers around the world. It was developed on the edge of the desert in the mid-1960s. So, at desalination…
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Before you say that, let me add some color for those who are not familiar with drip irrigation. What you have is a whole bunch of crops and a thin tube going near them that has water in it. Near each root system — aboveground — you have a tiny hole in this tube. And it’s programmed to let out a certain amount of water — with nutrients — into that area. So, there’s no waste. It’s not a water sprinkler system — which wastes water. The root system gets the water and nutrients that it needs with very little waste. And therefore, you can do it with extremely small amounts of water. So, that was in the 1950s?
AVI JORISCH: It was in 1965.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: And Israel exported that to parts of Africa immediately.
AVI JORISCH: Yeah, to Africa, Asia, Latin America — it’s a worldwide product.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: What’s so amazing is that when you look at drip irrigation, it’s not rocket science. You look at it and say: “My gosh, it is common sense. Why didn’t anyone ever think about that problem before?”
AVI JORISCH: I couldn’t agree more. If you look at the book — 15 innovations — it’s mostly just the Jewish mind. It’s very practical.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: So, I cut you off before. Get right back to your kids. You were telling them about innovation.
AVI JORISCH: When we took them to a tech conference, my son said: “Daddy, I don’t want to drive a car.” At the time, he was eight or nine years old. I said: “Really? Why don’t you want to drive a car?” And he said: “I want to ride an AmbiCycle, and I want to save lives.”
AVI JORISCH: And so, I hope your listeners will read the book. I hope they’ll find inspiration in it and tell those stories to their children. We’re passing the baton to the next generation. I would encourage your listeners — if they’ve not already done so — to come to Israel. You will see an extraordinarily complicated place.
AVI JORISCH: The innovators that they’ll meet are bound together — not by religion, money or stature. Those innovators are people who want to make the world a better place. For those of your listeners who come, go to the Kotel. Go to Tel Aviv. Go to the beaches. They’re all beautiful. But also, there are places like the Weizmann Institute — which is one of the preeminent medical science institutions of the world. They are cranking out innovations that are solving grand issues.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Does the Weizmann Institute give tours? Can people go?
AVI JORISCH: Absolutely. We just talked about United Rescue. Its headquarters is right in the entrance to Jerusalem. The founder himself would be glad to give tours. It is an extraordinary place to see with your own eyes. Muslims, Christians and Jews are working together to save lives. That is priceless. And it’s an experience that I hope your listeners will take upon themselves to go see with their own eyes. And when they read the book, these are stories that I hope they will tell to their children and friends. Because it has a much more hopeful view of the Earth than most people have today.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah. I want you to tell the story of “The Lame Shall Walk” because the story is absolutely amazing. The irony of the inventor and his invention knocks your socks off. It’s staggering. Go ahead. In fact, I’m definitely going to put that in the description. I want people to see this. If you watch what this thing does, it’s absolutely amazing.
AVI JORISCH: Every time I watch the video of a person who is either a quadriplegic or paraplegic standing up, seeing their loved ones at eye-level and hugging them is extraordinarily powerful.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: You jumped to the middle. Start from the beginning of what this is and why it’s such an amazing innovation.
AVI JORISCH: Amit Goffer — a very bright man and Ph.D. engineer — experienced a horrible ATV accident 20 or 25 years ago. He became extraordinarily depressed. He realized that he would never walk again. And so, he did what any normal person would do these days. He went onto Google. And he started to think to himself: “My spine is a skeleton, and it’s broken. It can’t be fixed. I wonder: ‘Are there creatures on the planet that have external skeletons?'”
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Let me interrupt you for a second. What was his technical background?
AVI JORISCH: He was an engineer. He was a graduate of the Technion — which is the MIT of Israel. But he was a computer science guy. He was not a practical application engineer. He was more on the theoretical side. He wondered: “Are there animals that have exoskeletons?” And he quickly discovered that there were — armadillos, crabs and scorpions. He created this device. And I hope your listeners will do a quick Google search and find these videos. It’s this battery pack that goes onto your back and hugs your legs. It allows you to stand up and see your loved ones.
AVI JORISCH: If that wasn’t enough, seven years ago, the world’s first paraplegic person not only stood up and kissed their loved one at eye level but ran the London Marathon for the first time. They ran a marathon for the first time in human history. It’s not enough that an individual who was paraplegic stood up and walked. But now, paraplegic individuals are running London marathons.
AVI JORISCH: And then, five years ago, Amit Goffer said: “I can’t benefit from my own device.” That was heartbreaking for him because he was quadriplegic. In other words, he didn’t have use of his arms and legs. And I don’t know if you’ve been on those upright scooters that you see everywhere in New York City.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I don’t think we have them anymore. I think they were outlawed. We’ve outlawed everything.
AVI JORISCH: He created one of those up-and-rides for himself that allows quadriplegic persons to stand up and zip around at eye level. And that is a full circle. You become an individual who can not only walk but run. It’s wonderful and heartwarming.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: It’s absolutely amazing.
AVI JORISCH: It’s called a Segway!
CHARLES MIZRAHI: A Segway, thank you. I never liked them. You see them all over. People give tours with them, and you drive around. I’d rather walk. If you know anyone who is in a wheelchair, what you’re mentioning — to stand up…
CHARLES MIZRAHI: The world looks totally different to someone who’s sitting in a wheelchair. You’re looking at everyone at waist level. You’re not looking people in the eye. It’s a really big deal. So, to be able to stand up is an amazing thing. But to be mobile — that’s something they don’t have in an upright position. It’s absolutely amazing. This has changed lives.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: It’s a simple invention. That’s what I find so amazing. When you look at some of these innovations, there are very few where you’d say: “Why didn’t I think of that?” For example: The Iron Dome. That’s something. If we can spot missiles, knock them out of the air and intercept them before they land, we’ll be able to protect people. That was Ronald Reagan’s thing on Star Wars. That was just fiction. Israel took that and created the Iron Dome.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: You start the book off with the rocket attacks on Israel. [They were] being intercepted by the Iron Dome. And you were absolutely floored by that.
AVI JORISCH: Not only was I floored by it, but I took my then-two-year-old down four flights of stairs. And he was terrified — as any child would be. With my next-door neighbors, we went into the bomb shelter and huddled in the dark — terrified. And 10 minutes later, the building violently shook. We heard two massive booms. And we understood that it was safe for us to go back to our apartments.
AVI JORISCH: At that moment in time, I realized Star Wars doesn’t happen in the movies. Star Wars is a real thing. And Israel has accomplished the impossible. It has turned this weapon into a defensive one that allows inhabitants to live life pretty normally as missiles are raining down on the country. It was the turning point of my professional life. It was that summer that I realized this was an Israel I was not aware of. I was not a techie. It was not part of Silicon Valley. I’m a historian, by training.
AVI JORISCH: I talked to my gardener about a drip irrigation hose used by over a billion people. My CFO had DPS — deep brain stimulation … the GPS for the brain. This was a whole new part of Israel that forced me to explore the country in a completely different way. Wherever I went, I saw these things saving people’s lives.
AVI JORISCH: And that was the beginning of me diving into the story and interviewing as many people as possible. What has caused this country to produce more startups than Canada, India, Japan, Korea and the United Kingdom combined? How did that happen? For me, that summer — and the Iron Dome innovation, in particular — forced me to reconcile with this new reality that the planet is dealing with.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I was just reading that the United States was talking about putting the Iron Dome in Guam. If China ever attacks Taiwan, the first [things] that they’re going to try to knock out are aircraft and ships that are stationed in Guam. So, if those missiles come over — you can’t defend Taiwan if ships and planes are knocked out. They’re talking about deploying the Iron Dome as a defensive weapon if China sends missiles into Guam to knock out the fleet and American aircraft. So, you see something that was developed in 2008. When was the Iron Dome developed?
AVI JORISCH: The first time it was perfected was in 2012. It was the first successful launch. The beginning of Iron Dome started in 2006 and 2007. But it took five years…
CHARLES MIZRAHI: [It was with] the Patriot missiles and the United States’ help. And then, they took over. Danny Gold was a champion of that. They were about to toss it so many times, saying that it wasn’t going to work. He found a way. For those who don’t know, when Hamas sends missiles into Israel — Gaza and Israel have a very short border.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: In fact, if you live in Be’er Sheva — the south part of Israel — you have 15 seconds from the time that the missile is launched in Gaza until it hits. Think about that. You’re walking. You hear the alert. You only have 15 seconds to get to a shelter. Many people have not been able to do that. Young children and adults have died.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Israel created an Iron Dome that intercepts these missiles and blows them up overhead. And the ones we hear about are the ones that get through — because it’s 95%, but not 100%. Nothing is 100%. But I shudder to think that if a handful got through and hit an apartment complex, you’re talking about thousands of people. That’s what Israel is living under.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: And so, the Iron Dome is a defensive weapon that the United States funds. It was developed in conjunction with the United States, right?
AVI JORISCH: Absolutely.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: It was amazing. Danny Gold, on Israel’s side, championed it against amazing odds and got it developed. And now, you see the results. It has not only saved so many lives in Israel, but now, it’s hopefully going to be deployed in Guam to protect our aircraft and troops. So, it’s a full circle kind of thing. The United States’ investments in these projects come back and pay amazing dividends to our troops in the United States.
AVI JORISCH: I couldn’t have put that better myself.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: All right. We have a little more time, and I want to get into another innovation. Because these absolutely fascinate me. You have here something that you would think … It makes so much sense. And I’ve thought about this — even when I was a kid.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Imagine that, when you have a stomach ache, you could actually see inside of your body [and find out] what’s causing it. Was it that watermelon rind that your mom told you not to eat because it would give you a stomach ache? Israel created a pill that you swallow, and it’s a camera. Talk about that.
AVI JORISCH: Gavriel Iddan came out of the military complex. He imagined a rocket going into space and thought: “What if you put a camera on the edge of that rocket? What happens if you swallow that rocket? Could it see the inside of your body?” For anyone who has had a colonoscopy, you know how uncomfortable it is. You now have this extraordinary, next-gen pill. It’s the size of a vitamin. You swallow it, and it takes thousands of pictures of your insides. For the first time in human history, we saw the small intestine on a live patient — as opposed to a cadaver. And today, that’s used all over the world.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: That’s an innovation that immediately took off. And that’s another thing. The simplicity of a lot of these innovations continues to boggles my mind. Going to Israel, if you speak with the people, it always seems that no matter what the challenge is, it’s not bad. We’re going to figure something out. We’ll get it. Mobileye — which Intel bought for $18 billion or $19 billion — is for autonomous driving with cameras. That was developed in Israel. Imagine if a car could see.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Waze was another Israeli innovation for finding directions. It uses GPS and maps of streets. That was later bought by Google. I want you to tell it to me one more time. How can a population of nine million — but not all nine million people work on innovations —view problems differently than most to produce these kinds of results? What have you seen in your research?
AVI JORISCH: Ultimately, it’s the idea of failure. One, failure is important. Two, what differentiates Israel — we talked about it earlier in the show. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers. He talks about the amazing 10,000-hour rule. Humans can accomplish anything they want as long as they’re willing to put in 10,000 hours.
AVI JORISCH: I think problem-solving starts very young in Israel. First of all, because it’s such a small country, it has the advantage of anyone coming into the military. They get the cream of the crop coming into these very advanced units. And the fact that everyone needs to serve — everyone gets to be put into these units, et cetera.
AVI JORISCH: Not everyone gets into the extraordinary units, but the cream of the crop goes into them. And they get to play with the big boy toys for 10,000 hours. They’ve gotten their 10,000 hours at such an [early] stage in the game. So, once they leave the military, they’re ready to take on the world.
AVI JORISCH: And it’s the graduates of those institutions who go on to found extraordinary companies like Check Point. Gavriel Iddan — from PillCam — was from an extraordinary unit. Amit Goffer was in an extraordinary unit. All these guys were in extraordinary units. But they got their 10,000 hours at a very young age — which allowed them to scale quickly.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: I think you’re referring to the Unit 81. A lot of these guys came out of there. Venture capital money finds them. The ideas that they come up with — I don’t know how many of these are unicorns. The startups that became $1 billion companies were headed by founders who were part of Unit 81 — which is Israel’s cyber-technology unit. It’s the cream of the crop. I think they find you in junior high school. And I think they take an aptitude test. They’re the best of the best.
AVI JORISCH: We’re talking about unicorns. I don’t know if you’ve been following the economy in Israel. It’s three shekels to a dollar. In other words, the dollar is getting weaker in comparison to the shekel. And over the last year or so, it went from 3.5 to three.
AVI JORISCH: Last week, I interviewed a fairly well-known economist. I said: “What gives?” Obviously, the economy is strong. [It’s a] startup nation. Great. But what is driving this? They said that the number of exits Israel has had over the course of the last two years — and the amount of U.S. dollars that have come into the country — has significantly strengthened the economy. And this is a trend that we’re only going to continue seeing.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah, companies are being bought not for 10 million or 20 million but near the billion mark — and then some. Mobileye was $18 billion or $19 billion. And you hear about startups in Israel being bought for $500 million or $1 billion all the time. It’s absolutely staggering. The GDP is growing. That’s why the Abraham Accords are working. These Arab nations said: “It’s enough being Israel’s enemy. Israel has no designs on our land. It does not want to attack us. We can gain more by joining up with its economy and getting the fruits of its innovation.”
AVI JORISCH: The billions are great, and it’s fabulous. But if you look at the heart and soul of the country, it’s the innovations that are making the world better.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah.
AVI JORISCH: We’re going to see lots of exits in Silicon Valley and other places in the world. And I don’t minimize the exits. Last week, at the Climate Change conference, the Prime Minister of Israel said that it’s time for us to change how we view apps and pivot [them]. Instead of allowing you to buy and sell things, make an app that helps you attack climate change and make the world better. That’s where I think you will see that what Israel is doing is interesting. It’s that focus of giving back and scaling for the sake of making the world a better place.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: What most people might not know is that Israel’s Prime Minister, Bennett, is a techie. He made money by selling his tech. I forget the name of the company.
AVI JORISCH: But his parents are from San Francisco. He was born in Israel. They moved to Israel before he was born. Was he born in the U.S.? I don’t remember, I’m sorry. I don’t know if he was born in the U.S. or if his parents made Aliyah. But it’s an extraordinary success story. It’s the immigrants.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Yeah. Naftali Bennett made his millions through technology. So, he totally gets it. But we have to realize that Israel has to export. There are only nine million people in the country. If you sell everyone the same widget 25 times over, you’re still not going to have a lot of money. There’s a big world out there. And that’s why China is working with Israel on drones. Israel has clients all over the world that are buying this. About 20 years ago — or a little less — former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that [Israel’s] technology was going to bring peace to the Middle East.
AVI JORISCH: And people thought that he was insane.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: They have the same problems of growing things and getting water. It’s a tough climate. And on those technological advances, it’s working. It’s going to bring peace. I’m very hopeful — and not only about the innovations that are coming. The Middle East will be a much safer place as Arab nations realize that working with Israel is much better than working against it. The standard of living and everything…
CHARLES MIZRAHI: All right, folks. The name of the book is Thou Shalt Innovate: How Israeli Ingenuity Repairs the World. Avi, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. I really enjoyed our conversation. Folks, get this book. It’s an eye-opener as to what you can do when you think about solving huge problems. There’s no limit. There really isn’t.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: And if I’m not mistaken, many of the people in this book are people like you and I. Some had above-average intelligence. Others didn’t have technological backgrounds. But they all viewed a problem that was big, global and not considered solvable and said: “I’m going to give it a shot.” Is that right?
AVI JORISCH: I would say that captures the heart and soul of the book. As your listeners look at the people to their left and right, I want them to look in the mirror and realize that the only people that are going to move the dial on the issues we care about are me, you and them.
AVI JORISCH: And it’s not that I have any delusions that me, you or any of the listeners are going to create the next Google or Waze. But once you start to understand that the world is separated between darkness and light — and that each of us has the ability to bring, fundamentally, more light to the world … That could be in terms of visiting someone who’s sick, helping someone cross the street, smiling at someone or opening the door for someone. As humans, once we see our fundamental role of bringing more light to the world, there’s nothing that can stop us.
AVI JORISCH: And as we look to the next 20 years, scientists are predicting that we’re going to experience 50,000 years of human change over the course of the next century. That’s staggering. And if we can keep in mind that our role is to bring more light to the world — and the future is bright for countries that innovate — nothing can stop us.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Beautiful.
AVI JORISCH: That is the story that I hope that you will tell your children. It’s the story that I tell my children. And it’s the story that we should tell all of our children as we approach the challenges that we will continue to face in the years ahead.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Beautiful. Let’s leave it right there because I can’t top that. The name of the book is Thou Shalt Innovate. Thanks so much for being on the show. I greatly enjoyed it, and I appreciate it.
AVI JORISCH: I’m looking forward to seeing you again, Charles. Thanks again.
CHARLES MIZRAHI: Thanks for listening to this episode of The Charles Mizrahi Show. If you’re a new listener, welcome! If you’ve been listening for a while, we’re glad to have you back. Either way, we’d love to know what you think of the show. Please leave a review if you listen on Apple Podcasts. Reviews make it easier for others to find the show. You can also see the video of the interview on The Charles Mizrahi Show channel on YouTube.
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