Podcast: Dan Senor with an Update on Israel's Economy in 2020

The co-author of Start-Up Nation joins us to look at the damage the Israeli economy has taken this year and how it can be repaired.

A deserted highway in Tel Aviv amid Israel’s lockdown to contain a surge in coronavirus infections. MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images.

A deserted highway in Tel Aviv amid Israel’s lockdown to contain a surge in coronavirus infections. MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images.

Tikvah Podcast at Mosaic and Dan Senor
Oct. 2 2020
About the authors

A weekly podcast, produced in partnership with the Tikvah Fund, offering up the best thinking on Jewish thought and culture.

This Week’s Guest: Dan Senor


The coronavirus pandemic has undermined years of economic growth and sent hundreds of thousands of Israelis onto the unemployment rolls. How can their country recover?

Dan Senor, co-author with Saul Singer of the bestselling book Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, is one of the world’s leading experts on Israel’s economy in general, and its tech sector in particular. He joins Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver for a discussion of how the Jewish state became a global technology juggernaut, the prospects for integrating the Arab and ultra-Orthodox sectors into the broader economy, and the outlook for an Israeli recovery after the devastation of COVID-19.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.

This podcast was recorded over Zoom as part of a virtual Tikvah Fund seminar series for Israel gap-year students on the Jewish political condition. You can learn more about, and register for, that series here.



Excerpt (15:37-17:25)


If Israel is the consummate start-up nation, it is also an immigrant nation. Over 70 nationalities are represented in Israel. Something like two out of every three Israelis are either immigrants, the children of immigrants, or the grandchildren of immigrants. In the 1990s alone, with the emigration from the former Soviet Union, you had Israel’s population increase by about a fifth. It would be the equivalent today if over the next decade the United States immigrated and assimilated proportionally about 60 million Americans. Israel is turbocharged with all these people from around the world, and the Israeli economy and the Israeli government and the Israeli polity have never viewed all these people as a burden. You have politicians competing for under whose premiership there will be more immigrants. They view immigrants as a net positive. 

I think they contribute what they contribute because, as it’s been said and we write, that their whole lives are start-ups. If you come to a foreign country and you have to start anew and build anew and deal with adversity and potentially a new language and raise your children in a foreign language. These are also skills that serve one well in trying to start a business. And the other unique feature of Israel is that because there’s so many nationalities represented, and because many of the immigrants are very recent, they bring with them their networks from around the world. They don’t physically bring them, but when they come to Israel they maintain those ties. There’s no other country in the world where you have clustered in such a tiny space all these people who have deep ties to countries on every continent in the world. Immigrants to Israel are very connected to their diaspora. You have a Jewish-Israeli businessperson from Ukraine working with someone from Brazil, to Ukraine, to Australia, to the United States, often all working in the same company. And the reach that gives this tiny country, which is largely an export-oriented economy, is extraordinary.

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