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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Travels with Abe, An Israeli's Perspective: The Technological Edge

Welcome back with another article from an Israeli friend, Abe. Abe is a guest contributor with history to tell. Perhaps you will begin to see an Israeli’s perspective of this world that we live in and what we are up against. Respectfully, Bosun

The Technological Edge:

Israel has a technological edge over its neighbours. Israel has ALWAYS had a technological edge over its neighbours. It’s one of the things that ensure its survival. There is one thing that needs to be understood by anyone before discussing what Israel can or can’t do; Israel is a technological giant. Anti-Israelis, (I’m loath to use the other anti-** word too loosely), have a tendency to equate Israel with third-world countries. They make the mistake of believing their own propaganda. Because they hate Israel, they downgrade it in their minds. “It’s not possible,” they say, “that a country so reviled (by us), could be so technologically advanced without importing this technology from the West.”

This reminds me of the Six Day War, back in 1967. Egypt, Syria and Jordan, (followed by anti-Israeli institutions world-wide), stated that the devastating air-attack that Israel carried out at the beginning of the war to destroy their air-forces, was actually done by the British and American air-forces. Anti-Israelis everywhere were only too happy to believe this. Bogged down in their denial of Israeli technological superiority, it gave some order to their explanation of Israel’s dramatic victory.

Israel’s technological edge goes back a long way. Jews have always been at the forefront of scientific advance. No need to mention the many Jewish scientists who, through the ages, helped the human march to what we have today. During the middle ages, when being a scientist in the Christian world was dangerous, and being a Jew was even more dangerous, Jewish scientists worked in Muslim states such as Egypt, where they were honoured and permitted to function. One of Judaism’s greatest sages, Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, the Ramba’m), was also the personal physician to the Sultan, Saladin (Yusuf Ibn Ayoub, Salah-a-Din).
Jews continued to participate in the development of technology throughout history. When the Modern Zionist movement began to accelerate in the late 19th Century, Jewish scientists started paying attention. There were scientists who abandoned their posts in the West and “ascended” to the Holy Land. In the early 20th Century, Germans came by the thousands. They built the sister-cities of Netanya and Nahariya. There’s a story in Israel that’s so old, it has a beard as long as Israel’s Coastal Road. Back when Netanya was being built, a group of Bedouin camel drivers heard a loud “whooshing” sound in the sand dunes of the Sharon plain. It sounded like a waterfall. They cautiously climbed dune after dune, until they came to the Mediterranean coast, where they saw an astonishing site. The Jews were building a city in the sand. Bricks were being passed to the masons. As he passed a brick to a mason, a worker would say, “Bitte Schön, Herr Doktor,” to which the mason would reply, “Danke Schön, Herr Doktor.” That, multiplied by the hundreds, was the “whooshing” sound the Bedouin had heard. The “Herr Doktors” were PhDs in virtually every science of the time. They built cities, roads and farms, and created one of the soundest scientific communities in the world.

Israel has offered to share its technology with its neighbours a few times. Back in the early 20th Century, Kibbutzim would offer medical aid to nearby Arab villages. An average Kibbutz would have an infirmary. Many of them had a doctor and all had a nurse or two. The clinic was always open, at no cost, to local Arabs. Some took advantage of it, some didn’t.

When Peace was established between Israel and two of its neighbours, Egypt and Jordan, Israel immediately offered to share technology. Israel had a lot to offer in the field of agriculture (among others), but Egypt did not break any speed records agreeing. The trouble is an inferiority complex. Egypt feels that agreeing to accept this from Israel makes it lose face. There are now many projects in which the two countries co-operate, but Egypt doesn’t like to advertise them. Jordan is more open with these projects, as well as the combined projects being run with chemicals from the Dead Sea. The border runs right down the center of this salt lake.

In the town of Rehovot, just southeast of Tel-Aviv, stands the Weitzman Institute. Named for Israel’s first President, who was a physicist, it’s a modern research institute that provides data to like institutes all over the world. There is no field of science today that is not represented by Israeli scientists. Israeli schools have very high standards. Many Israelis study in overseas universities because they can’t pass the difficult entrance-exams to Israeli colleges. The bar is so high, that US corporation recruiters show up on Israeli campuses to “snatch” the graduates. Many end up in Silicon Valley. Israeli companies have to offer a lot to prevent a “brain-drain.”  

As a result, IAF pilots are well trained to operate today’s technologically advanced fighters (with an attitude). Israel’s navy runs complex systems in its array of weapons and the Merkava tank has electronic systems that rival those of the M1 Abrams. Israel’s technological edge is what keeps it alive (along with pure attitude-Hutzpa). Let no one make the mistake of thinking that Israel’s technology is a borrowed one. It’s very solidly based and is respected everywhere. Israel holds expositions every year to advertise agricultural technology including, but not limited to, desert irrigation and other techniques of growing produce and flowers in the region. Representatives come from all over the world to see the innovations and make orders. I’ve met reps from the Gulf States, and from other Arab countries that, officially, are at war with Israel, but know that they need the technology. Gaza earned $3 million dollars last year from the export of flowers, an industry, left behind by Israel, which survived the destruction of the hothouses.

The American Southwest uses Israel’s Drip-Irrigation system. Years ago, Israeli scientists discovered what amount of water each plant needed optimally. Depending on what you were growing, water would spurt out of a perforated pipe at certain intervals and in certain amounts. This greatly economizes on water, while keeping the plant well supplied. These upgraded, computerized systems are causing an agricultural revolution in areas that were traditionally considered to be “too dry to grow anything.”

Many Americans are not aware how many Israeli tools they use daily, from cell phones to computer software. Most of the software used today all over the world was developed in Israel. A United Middle East using Israeli technology and an Arab workforce would be an economic bloc that would be hard to beat. It’s my dream.

Nuclear power? Israel has nuclear plants. That much is common knowledge. What is going on there is not. Most of us believe that we have the bomb. International military think tanks say that Israel has nuclear armaments that number in the hundreds (depending on the source), and that it has a capability of delivery both by air and artillery. We (the public) tend to believe that but, apart from an occasional “blurt” by Israeli leaders, Israel neither denies nor admits it. This, neither denying nor admitting, works for us. It has a stronger effect than if we admitted it outright. Keeps them guessing. Will they, or won’t they? Do they, or don’t they? Can they, or can’t they? Personally, I don’t see Israel using nukes under just about any condition, but just not admitting or denying is, in itself, a deterrent.

Israelis are well aware that the technological edge helps Israel to survive. We are very proud of the high standards we have and are determined to maintain them in a world that is increasingly being “dumbed down.” If we succeed, we’ll keep the technological edge. If we don’t, our very existence is in peril.


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