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Israel mission probes economic ‘miracles’
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Israel mission probes economic ‘miracles’

The Block brothers — Jourdan, left, and Bradley — on the border with Syria during the Start-Up Nation mission to Israel, where they met with top business leaders and entrepreneurs. Photos courtesy Bradley Block
The Block brothers — Jourdan, left, and Bradley — on the border with Syria during the Start-Up Nation mission to Israel, where they met with top business leaders and entrepreneurs. Photos courtesy Bradley Block

When brothers Jourdan and Bradley Block heard about a mission to Israel highlighting its entrepreneurship and business acumen, they jumped at the chance to see a different side of the Jewish state.

“When people hear about Israel they think of it as a small country with a lot of problems,” said Jourdan, 22, of East Brunswick. “But there is a story of how technologically advanced they are. Almost every technological company you can think of has a major office in Israel, whether it’s Google, Microsoft, Intel, or Motorola. It has a ton of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, involving military people and those in academia and all facets of life.”

Jourdan and Bradley, 27, were the only New Jerseyans on the May 15-20 Start-Up Nation mission of the Jewish Federations of North America.

The five-day excursion to Israel drew on the recent book Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle by Saul Singer, who addressed the group, and Dan Senor.

The mission included meetings jam-packed with leaders of some of Israel’s top companies, venture capitalists, and start-up executives, and featured tours of incubators. Participants also toured the IDF intelligence units where many of Israel’s entrepreneurs got their start and learned about the importance of technology to Israel’s security.

Jourdan said that mission-goers took part in “high energy” meetings with about 25 Israeli counterparts.

“I’ve been to Israel several times and have seen a lot of the cultural, religious, and tourism sides, but it wasn’t until I read Start-Up Nation that I really understood the business and economic side of Israel,” said Bradley, vice president of business development for Rotator Staffing Services, Inc., in Manhattan. “It really piqued my interest.”

Bradley said he was particularly impressed with Israelis’ willingness to take risks.

“This really makes them think outside the box,” he said. “The training is different from what Americans are used to in the business world and it was kind of refreshing to learn about. I have taken a little piece of that back home with me. It really opened up the imaginative and creative side of my personality, and I am already using it to grow and diversify our company.”

Jourdan, who recently graduated from Penn State University with a degree in finance and management, said that in Israel, he learned a great deal that he will take with him into the business world.

“It’s a combination of factors, including mandatory military conscription — necessary for the country to survive — that makes the culture more accepting of failure,” he said. “If you fail you just get up and start again.”

That philosophy of turning “issues into opportunities,” building on teamwork skills learned in the military, and never accepting defeat, said Jourdan, has given Israel the highest density of start-up companies in the world and is responsible for Israel’s having more companies listed on the NASDAQ than all European countries combined.

Both brothers said they got their love of Israel from their parents, Linda and Monte Block of East Brunswick, long active in the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County. Monte currently serves on federation’s finance committee while Linda, who has led six missions to Israel, is president of its Women’s Philanthropy.

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