Oct. 31, 2019 Staff Report
With about 8.5 million inhabitants, Israel ranks number 101 on the list of the world’s most populous countries, just a bit ahead of Togo. However, the Middle Eastern country is second in producing startup companies, only behind the United States, which has about 40 times as many residents.
Cherry tomatoes, drip irrigation, the USB flash drive, and the Waze traffic app are among the thousands of products to spring from Israel over the years.
Inbal Arieli discusses her new book, “Chutzpah: Why Israel Is a Hub of Innovation and Entrepreneurship” at Commonpoint Queens in Forest Hills on Monday, Nov. 4, at 1:30 pm.
After noting that the common explanation for her native country’s entrepreneurial culture mixes its technologically advanced military with the long-time Jewish love of learning, Arieli counters that the secret lies in the way Israelis raise their children. Though their expectations are high, their hands-off style fosters independence and the resiliency and creativity needed for innovation.
In the book (HarperCollins, August 2019), Arieli claims that Israelis are taught to be comfortable with experimentation, risk-taking, and even failure. The mother of three boys cites a national holiday, Lab B’Omer, when parents encourage their children to build fires. They’re responsible for the entire process, from collecting the wood to igniting the flames.
The root is the book’s title. Chutzpah (or חֻצְפָּה) is a Hebrew/Yiddish word for a personality trait that combines gall, self-confidence, audacity, imprudence, optimism, courage, and a few other bold qualities. With the proper amount of chutzpah, everything is possible, she argues. This runs from a young child trying to get a point across at a dinner table to an entrepreneur pitching an idea to a group of possible investors.
In addition to chutzpah, Arieli mentions four other commonly used Hebrew terms that she says form the basis of the entrepreneurial Israeli spirit.
• Balagan: Chaos that often leads to opportunity;
• Firgun: The ability to be genuinely happy with the success of others;
• Leezrom: To go with the flow and prepare for the unexpected; and
• Tachles: The ability to be straightforward and get quickly to important issues.
Arieli draws from personal experience. The former IDF lieutenant is a lawyer who has served as general counsel for several start-up and high-tech companies. She’s also a CEO of Synthesis, a leadership assessment and development firm. Plus, she has failed. In 2006, she was a co-founder of Modu, a startup that burned through more than $120 million in three years. (A disaster, but it didn’t stop her or the rest of the team from starting other ventures.)
The book discussion is free, but organizers suggest a $10 donation per attendee.
Commonpoint is located at 67-09 108th St. The venue operated as the Central Queens Y from 1973 until summer 2018, when the nonprofit merged with the Samuel Field Y in Little Neck to create the Commonpoint brand. The facility and its services are basically the same as when it was the Central Queens Y.
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