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Danita and Michel Azziza

 
A LAND FILLED WITH LESSONS TO BE LEARNED

By Danita Aziza, May 11, 2010

LESSON #4: MAXIMIZE YOUR POTENTIAL

A recent article in the Jerusalem Post caught my eye. The headline read; "The Laws of War-Israelis Know them Best". The article told of the victory of the Israeli team from the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya that recently beat out 44 universities to take first place in the 2010 edition of the Jean Pictet Competition on international humanitarian law. The article quotes the team's academic supervisor "For an Israeli team to win a competition in the field in which Israel is so often criticized is significant. The Jean-Pictet is the most prestigious competition in the field worldwide."
After reading of this great feat and realizing that it was the most positive piece of news that had appeared in the newspaper in weeks, I reflected on words that my late father lived by and adhered to...”maximize your potential”.   As evidenced by the IDC winning the prestigious competition and so many other substantive examples, Israel strives to maximize it’s potential not merely out of desire, but also out of necessity. Whether it be the strength of the shekel when most of the global economy was experiencing a down turn, the calibre of the Israeli Defence Forces, the cutting edge leadership of the Israeli’s high tech industry, the international acclaim of the country’s artistic community and the global contributions of medical researchers and scientists, there is very little that Israel doesn’t do well or in fact, extremely well.

Israel’s quest for excellence is remarkable in and of itself, but even more astounding when judged against the backdrop of the reality of its existence and the amount of financial and human resources  expended on security and defence.  Since Israel’s inception in 1948, Israel’s population has grown almost 10-fold to over 7.5 million people, 4 times faster than the world’s population. In the last six decades, Israel has absorbed over 3,000,000 Jews from over 70 countries making it the largest immigration absorbing county in the world relative to its population.  How then does a tiny country, the size of Vancouver Island that has fought eight wars in just over 60 years and spends over 9% of its GDP on security and defence achieve such levels of excellence?

In the area of education, Israel enjoys the highest ratio of university degrees to the population in the world. Twenty-four per cent of Israel’s workforce holds university degrees and 12 percent hold advanced degrees, ranking third in the industrialized world, after the United States and Holland. Israel leads the world in the number of scientists and technicians in the workforce, significantly more than rates in the U. S., Japan or Germany.  

In the field of technology research and development, Israel is ahead by a wide margin and enjoys an impressive position in the number of scientific papers published and is noted for having the largest number of patents filed per capita. Literally billions of people around the world enjoy technologies developed in Israel such as cellular phones, computer operating systems, and voice mail technologies. In the world of art and literature, Israel again is a world leader in the number of books published per capita. With current numbers well over 200, there are more museums per capita in Israel than anywhere else in the world.

Israel’s economy is solid and growing by leaps and bounds. At $100 billion, it is now larger than all of its immediate neighbors combined. On a per capita basis, Israel has the largest number of startup companies in the world and ranks third internationally in the rate of entrepreneuship. Israel ranks second in the world in the number of venture capital funds right behind the U.S and second to the United States, has the largest number of NASDAQ listed companies.

On another level entirely, Israel has developed some of the most amazing resort and vacation spots, it’s beaches and parks are on par with some of the best on the globe and it’s restaurants and cafes can rival many in Europe both in culinary excellence and decor. Israel’s hospitals and medical centers attract patients world-wide for diagnosis and treatment, local clothing and jewellery designers have long been recognized internationally for their unique creativity and design, and many products from beauty to agricultural are touted to be some of the best in the world.

I think of the analogy of a child who is the youngest in a family of high achievers, short in structure, not overly popular with his peers who  is constantly trying to better himself to achieve recognition.  In order to be acknowledged he has to excel, but by virtue or excelling he is displayed with oodles of jealousy and sometimes resentment.  Bystanders may not necessarily like the child, perhaps based on perception or appearance and often times totally without justifiable reason.  Yet, the child continues to maximize his potential not just because that’s who is he but also because it is what he simply must do to solidify his place.  In a similar fashion, so it is with Israel and the citizens that fuel its excellence.

With such high standards surrounding you, you are, by virtue of living in the country, motivated to achieve things you dare thought possible in another place and another time.  There are so many things that I never attempted to do or tried to improve merely because I didn’t think I could or more honestly, simply lacked the will.  Gradually since being here, I’ve tried to learn from the Israeli quest for excellence through hard work, risk and perseverance.  This is not something that is easy to do and it is often  fraught  with  challenge and obstacle, but in a Land where the impossible is always made to feel possible and excellence is the bar, you are inclined to strive for nothing less than your true potential.

 
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