What kind of country will Israel become? Prof. Dan Ben-David said his presentation, “Israel at a Crossroads: Shaping the Future of a Nation,” will offer a signpost pointing to a hopeful route away from crisis.
His talk, on Wednesday, Oct. 31, at 7:30 p.m. at New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, is part of the center’s ongoing series of Israel- and Jewish-themed programs.
Ben-David — president of the nonpartisan Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research at Tel-Aviv University and a senior faculty member in its Department of Public Policy — is among the most prominent voices in the field of economics today.
Outside of Israel, he said, much of the discourse on the country “continues to focus on an outdated set of paradigms.” But within Israel, “there is a growing realization that the country’s core challenges have shifted [and] an internalization that Israel is at a crossroads.”
While it is home to “some of the world’s most innovative private-sector companies [and] leading universities and medical centers,” Ben-David said, “a very large — and increasing — share of the population is being left behind,” ill-equipped to meet the demands of a global competitive economy.
“Israel’s labor productivity is below that of most developed countries,” he said, and the country “is beset by some of the highest rates of poverty and income inequality in the developed world.”
These gaps and a sorely lagging educational system threaten Israel’s “future economic sustainability — and consequently survival in the world’s most dangerous region.”
How the country faces these challenges will determine the direction that Israel’s society and economy are headed. This threat, he said, “must be addressed now, while it is still possible to do so.”
Ben-David was among Israel’s top academics who founded Shoresh in 2015 as the country’s only policy research institution whose sole focus is on long-term existential threats to Israel. The wide dissemination of the institution’s evidence-based analyses, said Ben-David, “spans the spectrum” — including briefings to cabinet ministers, members of Knesset, other top policy makers, editorial staffs in the media, and organizations in Israel and abroad — and has earned it widespread respect and trust throughout Israeli government and society.
He noted that Shoresh’s material — including, and particularly relating to his talk, the “Shoresh Handbook” — can be accessed on its website.
The writer of a regular column for the Haaretz newspaper, Ben-David has served as an adviser to the World Bank and to the director-general’s office of the World Trade Organization.
He has garnered many honors throughout the years, among them Tel-Aviv University’s Outstanding Teacher Award, being named “Person of the Year” by the “Calcalist” newspaper, and twice earning a place among “Haaretz-TheMarker” newspaper’s “100 most influential people in Israel.”