New Tel Aviv Museum Will Reveal How Startup Nation Got Its Name

The Israeli Innovation Center, set to explore the inspiration behind Waze, instant messaging and many more homegrown inventions, might just become Israel's next big tourist attraction.

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A simulation of an exhibit at The Israeli Innovation Center, scheduled to open in early 2018.
A simulation of an exhibit at The Israeli Innovation Center, scheduled to open in early 2018.Credit: Courtesy of Peres Center for Peace
Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz

What prompted the idea for Waze, the Israeli-conceived navigation application sold to Google for an estimated $1.3 billion? Who were the Israelis who invented drip irrigation and solar water heaters? Where did the concept for instant messaging emerge? How were cherry tomatoes first developed? What challenges did the inventors of the first swallowable cameras face?

A new museum that will be devoted to the best of Israeli high-tech promises to provide the answers to these and other questions, as well as the back stories to other famous inventions. 

A simulation of an exhibit at The Israeli Innovation Center, scheduled to open in early 2018.Credit: Courtesy of Peres Center for Peace

A groundbreaking ceremony for what will be known as The Israeli Innovation Center was held on Thursday at the Jaffa-based Peres Center for Peace, where it will be housed. The new museum is scheduled to open to the public in early 2018.

“The innovation center that will be established on this site will be a focus of national pride and help advance the cause of peace,” promised former president and prime minister Shimon Peres at the launching event, which was attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and many other Israeli dignitaries. 

“We will demonstrate here how Startup Nation was created,” added Peres, who served as chief fundraiser for the project. “We will obviously salute the achievements of the past, but we will mainly be focused on breakthroughs for a new tomorrow. We will prove that innovation has no boundaries and no barriers and that it allows for dialogue between nations and populations.”

The main museum exhibit, according to a simulation presented at the launch, will trace the history of Israeli innovation, demonstrating that many key inventions — especially in the fields of military and agricultural technology — were born out of a need to address the difficult conditions facing the young country. This main exhibit will feature touch tables and a child-friendly interactive game.

One floor of the building will showcase Israel’s best-known inventions of the past, while another will provide a space for the latest generation of local entrepreneurs to present their innovations.

The entrance to the new museum, according to the plans, will feature a large kinetic exhibition comprised of thousands of interactive screens presenting images of Israeli technological breakthroughs. The complex will also house a digital library where visitors will be able to obtain answers to specific questions about different Israeli inventions. Another section of the museum will be earmarked as a hub for hosting meetings, courses and hackathons. 

Altogether, the museum will occupy four floors of the 1,500-square-foot Peres Center, which was built 20 years ago. Funding for the project, which is being overseen by the government and the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality, was raised from Jewish communities around the world, as well as leading international technology companies. 

The groundbreaking ceremony included a panel discussion with three trailblazing Israeli entrepreneurs, all of them women, and the presentation of an award-winning robotics project by a group of schoolchildren from an Arab township in northern Israel. 

According to the Peres Center, the new museum will target “students, soldiers, heads of state and ministers, tourists, and business delegations, who will be exposed to the extraordinary story of Israel, a nation that that was transformed from swamps and deserts with no natural resources into a global leader, changing the world through innovation.”

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