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JewishJournal.com

May 15, 2008

Roots, reality and Israel’s 60th

http://www.jewishjournal.com/israel_at_60/article/roots_reality_and_israels_60th_20080519

It is a proud and glorious week as Israel, her 7.2 million citizens and millions of friends around the world celebrate the 60th anniversary of Israel's birth as a modern, democratic nation.

This week, world leaders will join us in joyful ceremonies; flags will fly, anthems will play and the progress Israel has made toward the fulfillment of the ideals and aspirations of an ancient people in their modern state will be lauded.

The joy will be tempered by memories of loss and by the challenges and threats that continue as a daily part of Israeli life those same 60 years later. But in all, it will be a visible celebration of human achievement that can bolster hope in a difficult part of the world. It will be the stuff of ceremonies and tableaux, visible, stirring and meaningful.

As a proud Israeli, I will join that celebration here in Los Angeles, but not just the pomp and circumstance. That's just the tip of the iceberg, if you will, or the part of the tree that lives above the ground. My celebration will seek that which is not so easily seen: the roots of a tree that give it life and stability; the underwater bulk of an iceberg that makes it massively powerful. You see, from my perspective, Angelenos and most of the people of the world see only the smaller, more visible part of the Israeli experience and reality.

What they don't see are the roots that modern Israeli society has grown outward to connect with the rest of the world; what they don't feel is the massive impact that Israeli companies have on the global economy; what they don't know is how often in their everyday lives they are touched by modern Israel through the research, innovation and creativity that are the larger output of the total Israeli endeavor each day.

Most Angelenos "touch" Israel literally dozens of times each day; they just don't know it. Be it the ingenuity of the Intel team in Israel that created the dual-core processor architecture now driving all of the PCs and Macs, the prominence of the Israeli software that safeguard our Internet connections, the major Israeli contributions to the very invention and continued development of cellphone technology or the ubiquity of Israeli software in the creation of voice mail boxes, instant messaging and customer service programs, there is "Israel Inside" almost everywhere; we just don't know it, but it benefits us all every day.

There are hundreds of Americans alive today -- and tens of thousands of others around the world -- because of the ingenious "camera-in-a-pill" designed by Israel's Given Imaging. This brilliant diagnostic imaging device is but one of many Israeli contributions helping better diagnose disease, just as Copaxone, a leading drug used to treat multiple sclerosis, is but one of many Israeli advances in treating disease. Ask any neurologist or endocrinologist about the level and quality of medical research being conducted in Israel today -- in stem cells, diabetes or in neurodegenerative diseases -- and they will tell you that Israelis are leaders in these fields and more, often in collaboration with Americans.

This is the work of Israelis; it should be the hallmark of our first 60 years and the legacy upon which our future is conceived and built. In a part of the world where many nations are blessed with enormous mineral wealth, our country has had but one natural resource: the curiosity, ingenuity and determination of our nation -- immigrants from more than 180 countries -- to create first a national homeland and then a society dedicated to making the world a better place. And, we do this despite our ongoing geopolitical and security challenges.

It's time for the world to pay almost as much attention to Israeli organizations -- like Save a Child's Heart, which provides free treatment for Third World children with life-threatening heart ailments, or to the millions of lives saved by Israeli ingenuity with water conservation and irrigation -- as it does to the violence in our region that we would hope to end forever.

As Israel turns 60, it is time for Americans to look below the surface and see the roots that now connect us -- all of us, every day -- by the way the diversity and creativity of the Israeli people and its extraordinary economy become integrated with Los Angeles and the world. Now is the time for Americans to see the larger part of Israel that is either submerged or obscured from view by the smoke of the conflict -- the everyday reality of daily life in Israel that exists beyond the images of conflict.

Here, Angelenos and Americans will find an Israel where more people get up each day and go to work trying to make the world a better place, than get up each day and do anything related to the conflict with our neighbors. The number of people who are involved with basic and applied scientific research, biotech, biomed and health care research and product development is far greater than the number of people involved with security -- the number of people working in Israel's high-tech industry alone exceeds the number of people in the military.

These Israelis are adding value to the world every single day. These Israelis are what root us to the rest of the world; they are the bulk of that which we create; they are what we hope the world will come to see and appreciate about Israel, as we begin our seventh decade.

Jacob Dayan is consul general of Israel in Los Angeles.

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