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Top 10 Israeli Startups – in Anctient Times

While Israel enjoys the reputation of being the “Startup Nation,” startups, creative ideas and inventions are nothing new to the Holy Land.

As much as 15,000 years ago, inventions were already being made, some by systematic trial and error process, and others by chance.

1. Dog Domestication 

dog burial eynan mayan baruch prehistorical museum

A burial of a young dog next to a women’s head that is about 12,000 years olf may have been the earliest evidence for dog domestication in the world.

The domestication of animals and plants is a critical stage in the development of the human race. No wonder they say a dog is man’s best friend. The first animal that was domesticated was the dog, and the earliest evidence of this has been found – in Israel. A Natufian burial found in Eynan, in northern Israel contained the skeleton of a woman and a dog next to her head. The burial is dated to about 12,000 years ago. At the time of its discovery it was argued to be the earliest evidence ever found of animal domestication. A similar discovery at Hayonim terrace, this ons dated to 13,000 years ago, was further evidence to this theory.

2. Wheat Domestication 

In the early 20th century, scientist and pioneer, Aharon Aharonson surveyed the vegetation of the Hermon Mountain, at the northern tip of Israel. During this process, he ended up discovering the earliest type of domesticated wheat. Taking place about 12,000 years ago, it was truly a revolution, as it ensured a regular supply of bread (= carbohydrates), and enabled humans to create permanent residencies. And guess where it first happened? In Israel of course!

3. Permanent Settlement 

jericho neolithic tower

A 10,000 year old tower found in Jericho, now buried partially under later layers, is among the earliest evidence of human permanent settlement in the world

The domestication of wheat required people to cling to a certain area so they could keep cultivating the wheat field. The Natufians (the dog domesticators, remember?) had already sporadically built round structures. However, the wheat domesticators, called the Neolithics, regularly built houses in blocks, in what can be called a permanent settlement. The earliest evidence for that, taking place about 10,000 years ago, is found in a site in Turkey (Govalki Tepe), and in Jericho. So, for the “startup” called “permanent settlement” Israel is happy to share the trophy with Turkey. Some time later, another important plant was domesticated. 

4. Olive Domestication 

The domestication of the olive took place during the Chalcolithic period, about 6,000 years ago, and the earliest evidence for producing olive oil was found in the Carmel. Olive oil made it possible to season salad and make deep-fried grated chickpeas (i.e. Falafel!). It also provided good burning material for oil lamps and torches, and so the human race could begin to overcome darkness!

5. Alphabet 

Traditional Torah font Sofer Stam

Traditional Torah font of the Hebrew Alphabeth. It is used by Jews to write official copies of the Torah (Old Testament). Courtesy of @tourguideaaron

Script was invented about 5,000 years ago in Egypt and Mesopotamia, not in Israel. But the hieroglyphs and cuneiform script was very complex, since it was based on hundreds and thousands of symbols. During the Middle Bronze Age about 4,000 years ago, the script was simplified to 25 symbols (Alphabet). It made the ancient Israelites very literate, and eventually formed the most printed book in the world – the Bible. Through Phoenician merchants, the Alphabet was distributed to Greece and later to Rome. Eventually making its way to the whole world! 

6. Abstract Monotheism

Another “startup” that was formed in the Holy Land, is the belief in one God, devoid of physical form. Belief in only one God may have been first introduced by one of the Pharaohs of Egypt (Akhenaton). However, his religious reform in the 14th century BCE was abolished after his death. The concept was reinvented in the Holy Land by the Israelites, and in the Israelite version the single God was shapeless. This religious concept puzzled the Greeks and the Romans, but would eventually become the source for two global religions – Christianity and Islam.

7. A Day of Rest (Shabbat)

Along with a unique faith, the Israelites introduced the human race to a new social concept – Shabbath, a day of rest every seven days. The division of the month into four weeks also appeared in the Babylonian culture, but determining the 7th day as a day of rest is an original Jewish concept! And like Windows software, today a day of rest once a week is a global standard!

8. Glassblowing

glassblowing jerusalem first century

Simple forms of glassblown vessels Found in Jerusalem. Dating to the First Century it is the oldest known evidence of Glassblowing

Another local “startup”, a technological invention, is glassblowing. The earliest glassware was made in molds, which made it very difficult to form glass bottles. In the first century CE, a Jew in Jerusalem experimented with blowing through a pipe that had molten glass at its end. It caused the glass to inflate, forming a container with a narrow neck. Industrial waste from his workshop was found in the 1970s during excavations under the Jewish quarter.

To this day, it is the oldest evidence of glassblowing ever found, making glassblowing a Jewish and Jerusalemite invention.

9. Atonement by Immersing in Water

baptism site

Russian Christian pilgrims performing a Baptism ritual at the site near Jericho believed to be where John the Baptist opereted

This “startup”, more spiritual in nature, was developed by a Jew called Yochanan, around the first century. He probably lived among a group that was living with constant and strong messianic expectation. They called themselves “Yahad,” and their library was miraculously recovered in caves near the Dead Sea. These documents are called the “Dead Sea Scrolls.” Yochanan and the Yahad shared many beliefs. However, once he developed the concept of immersing in water for atonement, he left the community and started operating at the Jordan River, near Jericho. His new ritual became known in English as baptism, and turned into part of his name – John the Baptist.

10. Messiah

In line with baptism, the belief of a Messiah is also a Jewish invention. The first piece of evidence of this belief is found in the writings of the prophet Isaiah. It apparently stemmed from fear of the Assyrians assault on Judea in his time. In the first century, the belief of a Messiah became very popular again. Over 2 billion people today believe it was fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth.

Do you know of another start up from the Holy Land in Ancient Times? We would love to hear from you!

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