On September 18th, some 350 young Israelis joined us for “What’s Happening?” – an exciting event produced in partnership with WIZE, an association of young professionals.

This event, which took place on a Thursday evening at the bar Ismi Salma in Tel Aviv, featured TED Talk-style lectures from some of Israel’s leading journalists, social activists, and intellectuals, including a few of the Taub Center’s researchers. The event also featured the winning entries of our inaugural visual arts contest, for which students from Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and Shenkar College of Engineering and Design (in partnership with the Rothschild Ambassadors organization) transformed Taub Center research findings into creative infographics and animated video clips. The winning infographics can be seen in the background of many of the pictures displayed. Here is a little bit of what the audience heard:

Dan Ben-David: Israel and the Threat from Within
The evening began with a presentation from the Taub Center Executive Director, Dan Ben-David. Prof. Ben-David presented on the long-term trends that have and will continue to affect Israel’s social and economic stability. He concluded that while Israel’s population is relatively young and healthy, the long-run trajectories on issues such as poverty, labor productivity, and education pose a serious threat to Israel’s social and economic well-being.

Yaron London: Will the State of Israel Survive Until the End of the Century?
Yaron London, Israeli journalist and TV host, provided some additional context underlying the issues presented during Dan Ben-David’s lecture. He discussed some of the social and economic reasons why various Jewish communities immigrated to Israel. In parallel, London also addressed why some young Israelis are choosing to leave the country only two generations later.

Sagit Azary-Viesel:  Taub Center Findings on Education and the Labor Market
Sagit Azary-Viesel, Taub Center researcher, spoke about the relationship between education level and employment status. In Israel, adults who hold academic degrees are twice as likely to be employed as those who do not. In the United States, by contrast, there is only a 3% difference in employment between those who do and do not hold academic degrees. Azary-Viesel concluded that if education is such a significant indicator of employment, we must ensure that all children are receiving a good education in Israel.

Nilly Avinun: Gaps in Public Education in Israel
Nilly Avinun, former deputy director of “Hakol Hinuch” an organization that promotes education reform in Israel, built on Sagit Azary-Viesel’s presentation. She discussed the many reasons why it is imperative that every child be given the resources he or she needs to be able to succeed in school. She focused on the gaps in Israel’s public education system, comparing children in the wealthier and poorer areas of the country, and connecting their success as adults back to the opportunities they were given as children.

Eitan Regev: Taub Center Findings on the Israeli Healthcare System
Eitan Regev, Taub Center researcher, discussed the decline of healthcare personnel and infrastructure in Israel. According to research conducted by the Taub Center, there are fewer nursing and medical school graduates per-capita in Israel than in the OECD’s 23 most developed countries. He also showed that Israel has a significantly lower ratio of hospital beds available per 1000 persons than other developed nations in the OECD, including the United States. “In a few years, we will have to be grateful if we find hospital beds in the hallways.”

Adi Altschuler:  So What Do we Do With This?
Adi Altschuler, the founder and president of “Krembo Wings,” a youth movement for children with disabilities, approached the end of the evening with a personal and inspiring touch. She showed the audience that, despite all the concerning information they received throughout the night, each person can still make a difference by taking personal responsibility for the community in which he or she lives. She gave examples from her own life, in which she has started organizations that range from working with children with special needs to sharing the stories of Holocaust survivors with Israeli youth.

Dan Ariely: Our Misconceptions about Inequality and Social Justice
The final speaker, world-renowned behavioral economist Prof. Dan Ariely from Duke University, ended the evening with an entertaining but also troubling lecture. He presented one of his studies, which surveyed thousands of Americans asking them about wealth distribution in the United States: what did they think the distribution looked like in actuality and what the ideal distribution should be? Ariely shocked the audience by demonstrating the large gap between how Americans perceive inequality and the alarming reality of just how unequal the country is. He noted that the disconnect between perception and reality are not so different in Israel, and he left the audience with a bit of hope, suggesting that small and conscious steps can be taken to promote positive social change in society.

“What’s Happening?” was an incredibly successful event, bringing in hundreds of young Israelis to hear from a variety of experts and engage with current socioeconomic issues.  We wish to thank Roni Levit, the Bezalel Academy infographics teacher and Itamar Daube, the Shenkar College animation teacher, for mentoring their students during our visual arts contest, as well as to all of the presenters and WIZE for making this enlightening and informative evening possible!