Unit 8200 or Bais Yaacov

A friend recently forwarded me an episode of a program called Hello World created by Bloomberg News , that takes you on a journey that stretches across the globe to find inventors, scientists and technologists who shape our future. Each episode explores a different country and uncovers the ways in which the local culture and surroundings have influenced their approach to technology. Hello World’s segment on Israel suggested that the tech craze that has developed in Israel is being fueled by a unit of the Israel Defense Force called Unit 8200. This idea has garnered growing support  with high profile start ups like Checkpoint, NICE and ICQ, all of which were founded by alumnis of Unit 8200.

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Pictured here is the second graduating class of the Bais Yaacov in Lodz, Poland 1934

Yet there is a silent revolution that is fueling this high tech success story that is only now starting to garner attention.  A growing number of CEOs have acknowledge that without all the charedi women entering the workforce it would be unclear whether there would be so many successful high tech companies. The number of highly educated Charedi women entering the work force at all levels is booming. When Bais Yaacov was established, the ultra orthodox community recognized that women needed basic education just like men. But the focus was about looking inwards to the family and home. Women are now realizing that to maintain a life outside of poverty, a steady income and most often two incomes is a necessity.

Institutions like the Lustig campus, Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) campus for Haredi women located in Ramat Gan, which was established in 1998 enables Haredi women, who are seeking to improve the economic conditions of their families by earning an academic degree in areas like computer science, software engineering, MBA and accounting. Machon Tal which caters to women in the religious Zionistic community have additional programs like Bio-infomatics, Electro-optics engineering, communications systems engineering and nursing.

So what’s having a greater impact – Unit 8200 or Bais Yacov?

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Training in Unit 8200 I.D.F

The I.D.F knows that it always has to be ahead of the game regarding our enemy. No one wins in war; it’s the triumph of survival. Only those that pursue life will triumph. For that, each branch of the army deserves recognition. The ability of Unit 8200 to recruit 18 year old’s who show potential for creating innovative approaches to security is a daunting task. Bais Yacov girls by contrast are taught about drive, discipline and purpose from a very young age. Torah education in general can create a great sense of purpose. Bais Yaacov girls are taught already at a young age that the direction of the home will be decided by them. They’re not looking for fame or fortune so ego doesn’t come into play but success does. And when your company fills up with employees like that, the sky is the limit.

Our triumph to live is what inspires us to advance. Very few Israelis ever think about the threats we face even though most Israelis serve in the army. We are not oblivious to the threat of nuclear holocaust against our country. But Euro Football 2016, vacation and work take far more attention.

Although Unit 8200 is a source of pride to all Israelis, our technological ingenuity has advanced further than any nation because we cherish life, family and education. Israel is the furthest thing from a military superpower. It’s the combination and unusual ability to foster peoples talents like young soldiers and young religious women that has created national success.

When peace comes we will be the only nation to throw away our guns.

Chief Scientist Warns High Tech Success May Not Last

Inside Israel’s Secret Startup Machine

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Standing Up For Our Soldiers

I remember many years ago on Memorial Day a radio host asked the following question to its listeners, “Who are the real heroes? The soldiers of today or the soldiers who fought in previous wars?” There seemed to be an agreement that the soldiers of today were the real heroes. The rational was simple. Back in the day, it was clear to all who the enemy was. He had a country, flag and uniform. You didn’t have to think. Israel was on one side and the enemy on the other. But in the early 1980’s things changed. The enemy didn’t have a uniform, country or flag. Governments like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria trained militant groups to fight their cause. It was cheaper and more effective. Targets moved from military to civilian. Israel also set a precedent by signing the Oslo agreement with a terrorist organization; namely by turning the PLO into a potential partner for peace. In a single moment terrorists became politicians with a legitimate cause. The PLO began inviting NGO’s and film crews to bring the plight of Palestines to the attention of the world. In turn, our soldiers required a new type of advanced training to deal with groups of militants who fought with cameras.

Three weeks ago our soldiers were faced with a far greater threat. Our Prime Minister and Defense Minister called into question the integrity of our soldiers after a video appeared on YOUTUBE by an organization whose activities are under investigation by police showing a soldier shooting a terrorist lying on the ground. Even before an investigation was launched, our Prime Minister was already Facebooking his friends about the video.

My concern is that our soldiers are being tried similar to terrorists. Because our legislation has not evolved, terrorists are even using Israeli law to their advantage by suing soldiers who cause them bodily harm. The danger is obvious and undermines the armies’ ability to fulfill its mandate. Our 18 year old high school graduates are required to act in accordance with standard military rules of engagement. Unfortunately because commanders are under political influence, rules of engagement have become blurred. New inductees now meet regularly with lawyers and advocacy groups that try to encourage soldiers to keep their heads high and that even if the government and army turns on them for carrying out their duties, lawyers will do their best to keep them out of prison. Benjamin Netanyahu and Moshe Yaalon sweeping support of B’tselem accusations have many soldiers terrified. Maybe B’tselem will finally get a real donation from Hassan Rouhani and not his usual monthly donation of 36 dollars.