“More than all that you guard, guard your mind, For it is the source of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
Israel isn’t losing its best and brightest because of greener pastures or higher standards of living abroad. It is losing because it is turning its back on its true identity. To solve the brain drain, the Israeli heart must be replenished first.
I understand what lies at the heart of scientists, academics and other great minds who are making the decision to leave Israel.
In 1974, I emigrated from Lithuania to Israel and stopped in Vienna for a temporary transit. All the cars were full of Jews who chose to emigrate to the United States, Canada or Western European countries. My family and another Georgian family were the only ones “crazy enough” to immigrate to Israel. As a young ambitious scientist, I could not imagine that forty-four years later, in 2018, I would be witnessing a different kind of Israel.
In today’s Israel, both great and average minds alike can be easily tempted by dubious organizations to abandon their homeland. The reason is simple: the pursuit of material profit. Many times, these offers come from sources with an interest in weakening Israel, and unfortunately, Israel’s leaders are busy trying to divide and conquer whatever’s left of the pie, rather than making the pie bigger together.
What’s worse, a fertile soil has been created here for people in positions of power to join hands in certain directions. There’s no real way to monitor the various ties being forged between government, military, police, courts and the media. Checks and balances are eroding and separation of powers is not always there. The successful players and brilliant minds who stay here are those who make the most profit.
Our Spiritual Potential Is Our Most Valuable Asset
Had I been warned about this situation forty-four years ago, I would have taken my family to the land of unlimited possibilities and urged the Georgian family to come with me, or at the very least retrace my steps.
What keeps me here in Israel? Only the spiritual potential that lies within our people. We carry a spark of unity that comes from our very foundation as a Jewish people, and if we rekindle it here on the land of Israel, we will rediscover our spiritual mission to be “a light unto nations.”
Being a shining example of unity is our vocation as a people and that is why, deep down, all nations are expecting something to come from us. When we fail to provide that example, the nations are driven to apply pressure on us in various ways, urging us to come together. But if we deliver, we can inspire the whole of humanity towards unity.
Israel has to recognize that the “heart drain” is what causes the “brain drain.” In other words, Israelis have lost touch with that spark of unity that ties them together and has no passion to serve as a beacon of unity for the world. They feel motivated to stick together only when they are under the gun; hence, material profit becomes the only calculation they make.
Abraham Planted the Seed of Love for All People
The first thing Israel should do is a massive campaign reviving the little-known birth story of the Jewish people, which took place in Babylon 3,800 years ago. Surely, everyone can point to Abraham the patriarch as the father of Israel, but very few can recount why and how Abraham brought us together.
The book of Noam Elimelech writes that “Abraham planted the seed of love for all people,” and Maimonides explains that “he went from city to city, kingdom to kingdom, until thousands and tens of thousands joined him, and they are the people of the house of Abraham… and they became a nation” (Yad HaChazakah).
So Abraham toured all of Babylon, and the representatives from all nations who followed him and practiced the tenet of “love thy neighbor as thyself” above all differences, later became the people of Israel.
Therefore, global unity is the foundation of our nationhood. To put it another way, the people of Israel were a mini-model of a united humanity. And this is why if we don’t maintain our bond of unity above all differences, there’s no real reason for us to stay together on the same land.
Rediscovering this common bond is the only way for Israel to create a renewed sense of patriotism, and reawaken the passion to contribute to our homeland, to a point that it’s more important for us than material profit offered abroad.
Along with this line, Israel should honor and cherish successful researchers and other brilliant minds who choose to stay in the country and thus strengthen the spirit of unity. This could be done regularly through presidential acknowledgment and broad media coverage of their unique contributions.
When we replenish the Israeli heart, the Israeli brain will work even better.