Israeli president Reuven Rivlin, former president Shimon Peres and prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu don virtual reality goggles.

Shimon Peres, Tech Guru

Israel’s former prime minister Shimon Peres doesn’t use a smartphone or even read news on the internet. But at 92 years old, the statesman is now among Israel’s biggest tech champions.

Peres is hyping Israel’s reputation as “Startup Nation” with a new facility showcasing Israeli tech knowhow. Set to open in 2018, the Israeli Innovation Center will be housed in Jaffa in the Peres Center for Peace, which has been renamed the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.

The facility indicates that Peres sees Israeli innovation as a major part of his legacy, which includes a lengthy political career and a failed diplomatic attempt at peace with the Palestinians in the Oslo Accords.

Peres announced the creation of the new facility on July 21 at a launch event with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin. The three donned virtual reality glasses, heard from female tech leaders in Israel and watched Arab students from a school in northern Israel show off a robot they created.

“I see our young generation,” Peres said in his speech. “I am convinced that, within each one of them lies the potential to be a scientist or entrepreneur. We must ensure that we never lose faith in a better future, a better world.”

The facility, which is projected to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, looks to be part hasbara project — that is, Israeli public relations — and part museum, showcasing Israel’s rise from a “country with no natural resources,” in Peres’ words to an innovator in agriculture. Israel’s military might will also be on display.

The facility will also play an active role in encouraging tech innovation, by hosting meetings and “hackathons” — collaborative computer programming events.

Peres sees innovation as a major theme in the Israeli story, one which will carry the state into the future. Israel is “not a miracle,” Peres told the Forward in an interview. “We don’t live on luck, we live on innovation.”

The former prime minister, who was integral in bringing nuclear power to Israel, acknowledge that technology can be used to create a more violent world. Innovation without morality can “become a danger,” he said.

He said that the Innovation Center will help to bridge gaps, showing Jews, Muslims and Christians how to engage in technology.

From Israel as “startup nation,” he posited that the Middle East should become a “startup region.”

Contact Naomi Zeveloff at zeveloff@forward.com or on Twitter @naomizeveloff

Author

Naomi Zeveloff

Naomi Zeveloff

Naomi Zeveloff is the Middle East correspondent of the Forward, primarily covering Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Shimon Peres, Tech Guru

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close