From Spoon Bending to Miraculous Start-up Culture

Published: February 17th 2010

Dan Senor
Pic: UJA
Mentalist Haim Goldenberg
Pic: UJA
UJA campaign chairs with Senor (centre)
Pic: UJA


He said that he does not want his book to be just for Jews, who may already be familiar with much of the material. He wants his book to have value for others to “stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship.” He excitedly told the audience that the book is being translated into other languages, including a Chinese translation in Mandarin. He wondered how to say “chutzpah” in Mandarin – the book has a whole chapter dedicated to the subject.


He partly credited the fact that “a nation of immigrants is a nation of entrepreneurs” for Israel’s stunning success in roughly 60 years. Immigrants know what it is like to start all over again and face diversity, he explained.


A second reason is that all Israelis have to serve in the military between the ages of 18 and 21 or 22. These are crucial leadership years. Young Israelis are forced to learn about what it means to lead, to have lives on the line, the ambiguity of imperfect intelligence information. The IDF is one of the most anti-hierarchical and most improvised militaries in the world. Young soldiers are thrown into the front lines and told to “go figure it out”. There are very few officers on purpose, with deliberately understaffed senior levels. The IDF has always had to be nimble at its front lines, with soldiers making their own decisions and questioning officers, because it is so outnumbered by its neighbours.


Israelis in the IDF “learn how to own decision making,” said Senor. They take this

mentality, everything from debating officers to quick self-decision making, into the start-up scene in Israel. That is what makes them so successful and unique.

“A lot of ink is wasted on the issue of the conflict. It should not change the whole other side of Israel that we talk about in our book,” he said.


Senor believes there is no greater blow to the campaign of delegitimization than speaking about how the world has a lot to learn from Israel in terms of the factors that have led the nation to become an “innovation hothouse” in such a short time.


“What we can learn from Israeli innovation is a central question of our times,” Senor concluded.



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