This article was originally posted on the Times of Israel Blog
Both Israel and California are centers of innovation, filled with brilliant minds and bold ideas. In so many spheres, Israelis and Californians have worked together to do extraordinary things – from building high-tech companies like WAZE, to advancing cutting-edge medical research, to pioneering revolutionary solutions in fields like agriculture and clean-tech.
In 2014, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and California Governor Jerry Brown signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to accelerate this collaborative innovation. Under the leadership of Israel’s Consul General in the Southwest David Siegel – and a range of partners, including the Israeli American Council (IAC) – this MOU is being leveraged on the ground to strengthen the California-Israel partnership in unprecedented ways.
U.S. policymakers are taking note of the extraordinary opportunities to work with Israel. West Hollywood and Israel have formed an HIV/AIDS Task Force. Beverly Hills and Israel signed an agreement to collaborate in a range of areas – from water conservation, cyber security, and public safety, to education and culture. From the central valley to downtown Los Angeles, Californians are looking to Israel –often described as a water superpower – for guidance on how to manage the state’s draught crisis.
This month, the IAC – working with Consul General Siegel and his team at the Los Angeles Consulate – helped to facilitate a historic collaborative agreement between the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) and Israel’s Ministry of Science, which will foster university-to-university partnerships and joint funding opportunities in stem cell research.
The agreement will provide a new framework for advancing this cutting-edge research, with CIRM and Israel’s Ministry of Science providing funding for institutions from California and Israel, respectively. The benefits to both states – and all of humanity – are unmistakable. Soon researchers at Stanford, UCLA and Berkeley will have access to a significant stream of funding to work with their counterparts at the Technion and Tel Aviv University to tackle the deadliest diseases on the face of the earth – from cancer and diabetes, to Alzheimer’s and HIV-AIDS.
Jonathan Thomas, Chair of the CIRM Board was enthusiastic about the potential of tapping into the great reservoir of brainpower in Israel. Signing the agreement on behalf of CIRM, he said, “We want to attract the best science and most promising projects from everywhere in the world to California, and we are hopeful this agreement with the Ministry of Science will be an important step in creating strong and lasting collaborations with Israeli scientists.”
Israel’s Minister of Science, Technology, and Space Ofer Akunis flew to Los Angeles to sign the agreement, highlighting during his remarks at the signing ceremony the importance of Israeli innovation as a tool for the Jewish state to build bridges and fight the threat of BDS.
This work is just getting started. This week, we announced the launch of the Israeli-American Nexus (IANexus) – a new partner advocacy organization of the IAC that will work to make the voices of Israeli-Americans heard to policymakers across the country. The IANexus will work with other advocacy organizations, visionary leaders like Consul General Siegel, and American policymakers to help to facilitate agreements between U.S. State and Local agencies and their Israeli counterparts all across America.
We firmly believe the successful creation of partnerships in California should be a model for the rest of the country because Israel has somuch to offer to communities in all 50 states. The possibilities for collaboration are endless – from introducing Israeli water innovation to the communities of America’s Southwest, to bringing world-renowned Israeli researchers to great medical institutions, to facilitating new relationships in arts, culture, clean-tech, and high-tech.
In his farewell speech as Israel’s President Shimon Peres said, “Israel was born on the foundations of its principles. Today it grows on the shoulders of science.” Standing on the shoulders of the dynamic innovators of the Jewish state, we can help Israel to continue on its path of rapid growth, building bridges at the top levels of America’s government, business, and academia to improve the lives of our fellow citizens and benefit all of humanity.