Political and social commentators Dan Senor and Saul Singer have tagged Israel as being the pre-eminent “startup” nation in the world. The tag has stuck. And deservedly so.
After their army service, large numbers of young Israelis – among them highly motivated, risk-taking, solution-seeking people who develop high tech and other electronic marvels – test themselves and their ideas in the wave and crash of the rough and tumble business world.
But not all young Israelis, after their tour of duty in the army, surf in the high waves of business trying to make their fortunes in the neon and stardom of the startup world.
Some, like Ben Erely, Dana Merzel and Omer Shafrir, test their mettle, their ideas and their ideals in the grimy, hard-scrabble streets of the poor and the needy. Social workers, counsellors, community organizers and activists, the three 30-something Israelis work in the close and cluttered neighbourhood of Kiryat Hayovel, one of the poorest in Jerusalem.