Israel’s Soldiers Also Earn the Honors

Since Israel’s independence in 1948, Israel has won 12 Nobel Prizes, an incredible total for such a small country. When considering that over those 70 years the country had to fight numerous wars, absorb millions of immigrants and develop an economy, the total is even more remarkable.

Even when backing out Nobel Prizes awarded for peace, which is the most dubious category as it is more aspirational and political than the other categories, Israel has still won 9 prizes. That puts the country as a top five winner of Nobel Prizes per capita.

Rank Country Nobel Prizes since 1948  2017 Population (m)  Nobels per Capita Non-Peace Prizes  Nobels per Capita
1 Sweden 19                  9.90                  1.92 18                  1.82
2 Switzerland 15                  8.37                  1.79 15                  1.79
3 Norway 8                  5.23                  1.53 8                  1.53
4 United Kingdom 93                65.64                  1.42 86                  1.31
5 Israel 12                  8.55                  1.40 9                  1.05
6 Austria 9                  8.75                  1.03 8                  0.91
7 Ireland 6                  4.77                  1.26 4                  0.84
8 Hungary 8                  9.82                  0.81 8                  0.81
9 Germany 60                82.67                  0.73 58                  0.70
10 Denmark 4                  5.73                  0.70 4                  0.70

The country also proves itself to be a leader in the commercial application of science and technology. Israel ranks as number 8 regarding patent filings per capita.

Rank Country  2016 patent filings  2017 Population (m)  Filings per capita
1 Switzerland            47,000                   8.37               5,614
2 South Korea         233,786                 51.25               4,562
3 Japan         456,467               127.00               3,594
4 Sweden            23,453                   9.90               2,368
5 Netherlands            39,058                 17.02               2,295
6 Germany         177,073                 82.67               2,142
7 Denmark            11,727                   5.73               2,046
8 Israel            15,108                   8.55               1,768
9 United States         521,802               325.70               1,602
10 Austria            13,869                   8.75               1,586

Not surprisingly, there is a strong correlation to the science awards and Nobel prizes in science to the educational level of the population. Israel ranks #2 in terms of the percent of the population with a tertiary education.

Rank Country  % Population with Tertiary education
1 Canada 51%
2 Israel 46%
3 Japan 45%
4 United States 42%
5 New Zealand 41%
6 South Korea 40%
7 United Kingdom 38%
8 Finland 38%
9 Australia 38%
10 Ireland 37%

The statistics above are simple numerical facts. Various organizations use these numbers and others to provide their views of the “qualitative” nature of the country by different measures.

For example, The Heritage Foundation produced its 2018 freedom ranking of 180 countries. It used measures such as the rule of law, property rights and openness of its markets to score each country. Israel ranked #31, ahead of some of the countries listed in the statistical tables above such as Austria #32 and Hungary #55, but behind the others. The Economist had a similar ranking, placing Israel as tied for #30. This is likely due to Israel’s hostile neighbors, many of which do not recognize its right to exist and are at an official state of war, which compromises some of Israel’s freedoms. This dynamic is in contrast to the other countries on the list, that have not fought four wars and multi-year mass riots since the turn of the century.

However, it is interesting to note that several of the countries that lead in science do not just lead in education, but have a mandatory military draft like Israel, including: Denmark; South Korea; Norway and Switzerland. The book Start-up Nation, attributes much of Israel’s economic success to the training a person gets in the army. Those skills are not limited to technical training, but also leadership and a sense of communal belonging. Perhaps countries like Denmark and Switzerland have similarly benefited from military training.

But none of those other countries have faced the missiles, gunfire, bombings, the wars and riots that Israel has had to endure. Switzerland continues to reduce the size of its army and holds a vote every few years to abolish conscription. It views the army as a holdover of a different time. Yet Israelis know that enemies that seek the country’s destruction are just miles away. Today.

Israeli soldiers at Har Herzl in Jerusalem

And so it is perhaps appropriate to pause on Yom Hazikaron, the day of remembering the fallen Israeli soldiers, to recall not just their sacrifice, but to honor them with a helek, a portion of every Nobel Prize, every doctorate, every award won and every IPO completed by each Israeli since the country’s founding. Every soldier has earned a part of it too.

Related First.One.Through articles:

Israel, the Liberal Country of the Middle East

A Flower in Terra Barbarus

Israel’s Peers and Neighbors

The Color Coded Lexicon of Israel’s Bigotry: It’s not Just PinkWashing

Israel: Security in a Small Country

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Je Suis Redux

The famous French mathematician and philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) once famously said: “Je pense, donc je suis,” or in English “I think, therefore I am.” That statement as well as his other works earned him the title of the father of western philosophy.

The concept Descartes put forth of the centrality of “thinking” and “being” is profound on several levels and had a significant impact on western society.  The expression has an interesting sequel today.

French Sculptor Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker

Descartes did not call out overt action verbs like eating, running or talking to prove his existence. He argued that something as fundamental as brain activity proved that he was alive. Such an approach has led to interesting debates about brain death and the status of life today.

On a philosophical level, Descartes was plagued with doubt about everything: not just about ethereal matters such as the existence of a supreme being, but whether the world as he saw it existed at all. He considered whether it was all just his imagination, just a dream. He concluded that the actual process of considering whether anything at all existed, proved that he indeed did exist.

Je Suis 2015

The world was given a brief tutorial of French in 2015. In response to the horrible killings at the offices of Parisian magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket, people around the world held signs and banners that read “Je Suis Charlie,” “Je Suis Juif (Jew),” “Je Suis Policier (Police)”. A few weeks later, when another terrorist shot people in Copenhagen, the signs “Je Suis Danois (Danish)” showed support for the people of Denmark.

“Je Suis” rally in Paris,
January 2015

The expression “Je Suis…”, “I am…” in those contexts expressed people’s solidarity with the cause for which people died (freedom of press, speech or religion), essentially reaffirming that those liberties live on. While individuals may have been killed, there are others that cherish those same beliefs who remain alive. While the victims are dead, the freedoms are not vanquished.

Je Suis…” attested to the strength of people’s convictions.  While the terrorists were killed by police in both Paris and Copenhagen, people did not deceive themselves that there were many other would-be-terrorists who might commit similar acts. Yet they stood defiantly with placards held high and passions held firm.

Consider that hundreds of years ago the father of western philosophy made a statement that was born from his complete doubt in anything and everything. He imagined that nothing was real, even his own existence. Doubt Affirmed Life.

In 2015, people rallied because of the murder of people who shared a similar western philosophy. In mourning the deaths, people realized the depth of their own convictions. Death Affirmed Belief.

The sequel of Je Suis in France may be a perfect mirror image of the original. But the central theme remains the freedom and ability to question and believe.

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