The other day I was talking to a young scientist from China who's completing her PhD at one of the very best American universities, and has just spent a month in Israel. She hails from what she describes as a "middle-or-smallish-sized Chinese town" of about 8 million people, which I admit I'd never heard of. When I asked for her impressions of her first visit to Israel (pop. 7.76 million) she gushed. First, about the geographic and climatic diversity, then over the human diversity, then over the creative energy. (The first of those three isn't of our doing).
The creative energy is constantly seeking new avenues. A couple weeks ago the Economist agreed to stop kvetching over our politics long enough to look at a spot of our economics, and came up with the story of how Israel is trying to corner the international market of water technology. It may or may not work, but if it does it will significantly benefit mankind. To me, the interesting part of the story is how we're trying to repeat a model which proved extremely efficient in the 1990s: the problems that could be solved are there, the eagerness to resolve them are there, then the government steps in with significant funds, but with the intention to jump-start an industry and then get out so as not to interfere with the private innovators and investors and risk-takers. In the 1990s it was the Yozma program which jump-started the high-tech revolution; a few years ago it was a fund for water technology; five years later the government is already moving out and the innovators and entrepreneurs who made it in the 1990s are moving in.
I expect it will take another five years or so to know if this is working. During that time many of the water-tech start-ups will fail, for various reasons. If some succeed, however, especially if any of them succeed spectacularly, Israel really could be the Mecca for anyone worldwide who's got dirty water or lack of water and wishes to improve things. Which means most of the world.
Well, perhaps not a Mecca. Though the Meccans sure could use it. Also, this success or failure will happen regardless of the settlements on the West Bank, and the blockade or not of Gaza. That's a different universe.