Adam Fisher.

Keeping the light on

“Several months ago, I warned that in response to the judicial coup entrepreneurs will leave Israel before investors will. Having anticipated the despair, I now want to strongly discourage leaving and abandoning this historic fight for democracy,” writes Adam Fisher, partner at Bessemer Venture Partners

Israeli liberals are in despair. Despair is that crushing emotion that descends on you when you’ve lost your bearings because the future you had imagined, and begun to realize, is suddenly in doubt. It is an arresting feeling that can impair judgment. If not properly addressed despair can extinguish the most important of human traits, hope.
Since time immemorial, hope of a better future shaped by human hands has driven progress, aroused courage, stirred the imagination and been a rallying call for the collective pursuit of something daring and ambitious. Something like Zionism and the creation of the State of Israel. Something like technology entrepreneurialism and the emergence of the Start-up Nation. And perhaps something like a future Israel with a liberal constitution and bill or rights.
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אדם פישר קרן בסמר
אדם פישר קרן בסמר
Adam Fisher.
(Photo: Bessemer Venture Partners)
What makes Israelis exceptional as a people is that they imagine a better future and proceed to make it a reality. That is what links the fighting spirit that built this country and the entrepreneurial passion that now builds startups. Israelis aren’t deterred by cynics or discouraged by setbacks. And they don’t surrender to despair by hastily leaving their homeland for a foreign country.
Several months ago, I warned in these pages that in response to the judicial coup entrepreneurs will leave Israel before investors will. Having anticipated the despair, I now want to strongly discourage leaving and abandoning this historic fight for democracy.
The future of the country currently looks bleak with daily news headlines that seem designed to intentionally crush any vestige of hope. A nation suddenly teeming with intolerance and ignorance. A society that seems to sanction violence and corruption. And overwhelming demographic trends that seem to portend worse to come.
But demography is not destiny, and the future of our country is not yet written. None of us can foretell how our future will unfold. That’s because each of us still has a role in determining that future.
People mistakenly think that entrepreneurs and investors see the future, when in fact they chart the future. They see opportunity, where others see difficulty. Like the Zionist pioneers and the first generation of Israeli entrepreneurs. And now liberal Israelis must see the opportunity. An opportunity to adopt a constitution, to prepare for the next election and to raise the next generation with a deeper understanding of democracy.
Progress rarely advances along a linear line. Not in life or business. Not in the economy and not in your country. The impediments and reversals are an essential part of the journey, which help us to recalibrate and chart a better course in response to new developments. The same ingenuity and iterating that has made Israeli high tech successful must now be applied to preserving and expanding Israeli liberal democracy.
I made Aliyah 25 years ago because I wanted to be part of a country that was still being built. A country whose greatest accomplishments were still ahead of it. I’m not ready to give up on the country that has accomplished so much in recent years. Like you, I’m angry precisely because I love this country and its people so much.

I understand those that feel fed up with their country of birth. Who recoil when they hear their leaders speak, who are buckling under the inequitable burden of military service and taxation, and who fear their rights and those of their children. Suddenly, foreign shores seem calm and beckoning. A distant land where the weight of being Israeli will finally be lifted.
But don’t be fooled. You may be happier far away, but that will have a lot to do with the fact that you won’t care much about the new country and its people the way you do about Israel.
Once there, you may worry about public education but will send your kids to private school. You may feel your rights are threatened, but you won’t join protests in favor of abortion rights or against automatic weapons. Your new country may go to war, but you won’t be bothered reasoning that military service is mostly for those who can’t afford university. You may follow politicians’ outrageous antics but will laugh because they are not your leaders. But mostly, you will know that none of it matters, because you can always go back home. It is only when you finally encounter antisemitism that you will finally remember why so many choose to call Israel their home in the first place.
I can’t promise it won’t get worse before the tide finally turns, but the same can be said for the United States and other western democracies. The frustrating truth is that the same chauvinism, populism and extremism that has engulfed our country is inflaming tensions in every democracy. It exists everywhere, so if you’re going to resist it, do it in a country you care about.
Israel needs high tech not only because of the contribution to the economy, but because it is composed of liberal minded Israelis from all backgrounds. This is why the high-tech community finally discovered its voice becoming a force for something meaningful outside of business. We need all those Israelis who see the opportunity in the present difficulty, and who aren’t afraid to be part of something still in the building phase. Of course, there will always be those who choose to leave, and we’ll keep the light on for when they or their children eventually return.
Adam Fisher is a partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, heading the Tel-Aviv office.