105. Giant leaps in Science and Technology

‘Necessity is the mother of invention’, is a famous saying we all know. So far, most of the inventions in the history of mankind happened only after a need related to them was felt. In modern times, only a society that by understanding its needs, takes efforts to meet them with the use of science and technology, climbs the ladder of development and success quickly. In today’s world, Israel is one of the most admirable examples of such an approach.

In the present day, economic growth of a nation is directly proportional to the scientific and technological progress it achieves. The key to Israel’s journey from being an ‘underdeveloped country to a developed nation’ is hidden in it recognizing its strength in science and technology and thinking out-of-the-box in various innovative ways to fulfil its needs and wants.

Taking into consideration its area and population, Israel has the largest proportion of startups, researchers, etc., in the fields of science and technology and is thus considered the ‘Second Silicon Valley’. In Israel, they call it ‘Silicon Wadi’. In every 10 thousand employees, there are 140 scientists, technologists in Israel. In the United States, this proportion is 85 to 10 thousand while in Japan it is 83 to 10 thousand. Israel has the world’s most ‘technologically literate’ population. Besides, Israel spends 4.3% of its GDP on research and development in science and technology, which is the highest in the world. Many Israeli researchers have won the Nobel Prizes, considered the highest honour in the world given for research.

Silicon Wadi

How India and China are considered favourite destinations by the global MNCs for building production facilities; likewise, Israel is regarded to be the first choice for hi-tech research. Many leading hi-tech multinational companies like Intel, IBM, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and many others have their research and development centres in Israel. Intel built the ‘Centrino’ platform at its Israel-based lab. Similarly, most of the code of Microsoft’s ‘Windows’ operating system is written at its research and development centre in Israel.

Microsoft in Israel

It is, of course, the need that drives Israel’s giant leaps in the fields of science and technology. Having faced nothing but adversities for generations, a sort of ardent ambition to tide over the difficulties and win, in fact, to maintain their very existence, is naturally ingrained in the Israelis. By its very nature, Israel is hot and dry desert land. Thus, it was necessary to conduct newer experiments to ensure water supply and sustenance of agriculture. Likewise, it was essential to carry out different experimentations in building settlements while arranging for the accommodation of the vast hordes of immigrant Jews coming from across the world after Israel’s independence. Also, in the face of the insufficient conventional energy resources in the country, indispensable to its economy, it was imperative for Israel to search for alternative sources of energy. Israel is surrounded on all its sides by adversaries. Hence, in self-defense, to keep increasing the strength of the Israeli Defense Forces by various means including the ways of new scientific discoveries and developing state-of-the-art and innovative weapons is also paramount to Israel. (Many of you must have read news about India having used the Israel-made ‘Spice bombs’ in conducting Balakot airstrikes to avenge the terror strike at Pulwama in the Indian state of Kashmir).

Consequently, the Israeli science and technology have evolved over the last few decades. In contemporary times, several discoveries in various sectors are credited to the Israeli scientists. ‘Pill camera’ is just one of the many examples. It aids in performing accurate medical diagnosis. It is a miniature camera fitted into a standard pharmaceutical capsule and passed into the body of a patient. Also known as the ‘Wireless capsule endoscopy’, the method is used across the world. The miniaturized camera or the capsule camera is developed by an Israeli electro-optical engineer ‘Gavriel Iddan’ who worked at ‘Rafael Armament Development Authority’ on the ‘guided missile technology’. He got the idea of the pill camera while working on a task to fit a camera on missiles. He worked on the concept for some twenty years and launched it commercially in the year 1998 through his own startup.

Pill Camera

The untiring efforts of the early Zionist leaders are responsible for developing the research-oriented mindset of the Israeli people.

When the Zionist leaders had dreamt of an independent Israel, they had given a thought to the overall progress of the Jew State from the economic, cultural and social perspectives. They had also recognized the power of science and technology in aiding this holistic progress.

Importantly, considering the paucity of resources and the challenges trying to engulf Israel from all sides, the leaders were convinced that a conventional, stereotypical approach would not work.

As a result, even before the Jewish State came into existence, the groundwork had begun in the areas of science and technology, much like the ways in which the preparations had also started in the other sectors.

Right from the end of the 19th century, with the efforts of these foresighted leaders, research institutes working on various subjects had gradually begun to take roots in Israel. It started with the establishment of agricultural research institutes. Then, before World War I, research organizations working in the fields of medicine and public health came up. After it, in the decade of the 1920s, the departments of microbiology, biochemistry and bacteriology took shape at the Hebrew University. It later led to the foundation of the ‘Hadassah Medical Centre’, which is into medical research and today, is the most important institution in the field in Israel. Further, institutes for research into production, manufacturing and many other fields sprang up one after the other. Thus, by the time Israel as a nation took birth, research into various sectors and areas had advanced considerably.

The Hadassah Medical Center

 (To be continued…)

– Shulamith Penkar-Nigrekar

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