Israel’s reputation as a powerhouse of technical innovation has, in recent years, won the respect of the world. Many Israeli start-ups have become wildly successful and have been sold to or merged with international businesses to great profit. Countless new ideas, nurtured in these incubators have evolved into everyday items in today’s marketplace. A hallmark of the Israeli start-up is the young entrepreneur who, with a bright idea and a small budget manages to invent, create, or develop something unexpected and fascinating.
Dan Raviv and Linor Bar-El examine some of the reasons for this extraordinary rate of success. They focus, in particular, on three young Israelis, Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari, and Yonatan Weintraub who were behind the development of Project Beresheet, Israel’s mission to the moon which was launched in April 2019. The original idea, conceived by Bash, was to use a plastic bottle as a small spaceship and, although the basic plan grew more complex as it evolved, Beresheet ultimately reached the moon in a dramatic crash landing which gave the scientific community a plethora of data and remains a source of pride for the entire Israeli population, most notably the country’s young people. Bash, Damari, and Weintraub have become heroes in their eyes.
Raviv and Bar-El explore this culture of innovation and look for clues as to why Israel has an abundance of start-ups. They enumerate several reasons, among them a survival culture based on Israel’s conflicts, mandatory service in the IDF, and a respect for Israel’s security organizations, all of which foster individual thinking and a can-do attitude. The educational system and the ubiquitous youth movements also breed a spirit of inquiry and an optimistic feeling that absolutely anything can be achieved. Israel boasts technology camps and fairs geared to young people and there is immense support for innovative ideas and research transmitted by schools, universities, and other institutions. And, of course, there are investors who are willing to take a chance on an energetic person who wants to follow through on an untested idea and doggedly pursue it, shepherding it through all the phases of its development until a tangible product materializes. The authors speculate that there may also be something in the history of the world-wide Jewish experience which gives many an extra push and the motivation needed to persevere.
An introduction provides the basic background and history of the region and the text is accompanied by color photographs of Beresheet and its developers including a number of selfies Beresheet sent back to Earth before its crash landing. These pictures evoke a sense of pride, prominently displaying the words on the spacecraft Small Country, Big Dreams and proudly displaying the image of Israeli flag.
The book is easy to read and sophisticated concepts are presented in an accessible manner. It reads like suspenseful fiction as it smoothly transmits complex ideas. People who love science will be fascinated, people who love business will be intrigued, people who love history will be captivated, and people who aren’t particularly excited by any of the above will be filled with enthusiasm for all of them by the time they finish this book.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. She has lectured on a variety of topics relating to children and books and her greatest joy is reading to her grandchildren on both sides of the ocean. Michal lives in Great Neck, NY and Efrat, Israel.