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Israel: Seventy years young

Neil Lazarus says that the country refuses to act its age — and this may just be a key to its success

    Israel was a very different country when I made the move from England in 1988. High-tech had not taken hold, and the country was bulging at the seams with new immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

    Today you arrive at one of the world’s most modern airports. But when I landed at the beleaguered old terminal I was met by an elderly official. All he said to me was: “Run.”

    He took one suitcase, I took the other, and together we dashed. I asked him why we were running. He pointed at three planes that had just landed and said: “They are full of Russian immigrants and will choke up immigration for hours. Running is your only chance of leaving the airport today.”

    Life here, after all these years of development, still lends itself to the absurd.

    I came to a standstill driving near the Dead Sea when a camel stopped in the road, stubbornly blocking both lanes. My online search for “how to move a camel from a road” yielded no useful results. A while later, a Bedouin man came and quickly moved his camel, but he did not see me waiting. Why? Because he was so busy on his smartphone.

    This summed up today’s Israel for me: an old-age scene, and a man using cutting-edge technology, several components of which were developed here.

    We are the nation where high-tech execs end up, like me, being late for meetings because of camels in the road, where old and new mix.

    The state’s mentality matches this old-new combination. The country is 70 years old — the age of maturity — but in a sense it still has the mentality of a 20-year-old.

    Israel still has the fearlessness of a young person: the energy, determination and strength to try new things. I see this as both a weakness and a strength. Perhaps, like any youngster, it does not listen to others enough — in this case, friends in the international community and the Jewish Diaspora.

    But on the other hand, this gutsiness and chutzpah — the same qualities that made a bunch of idealists decide to establish this state — gives it the originality to innovate and pioneer, in art, culture, technology, and many other spheres. ■

    Neil Lazarus is an educator and speaker. Find his website at: awesomeseminars.com

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