TEL AVIV: For world leaders struggling to resolve the long-running conflict in the Middle East and the new crisis of a sea of refugees streaming into Europe, Shimon Peres may have a piece of practical wisdom to impart: the way to bring about peace is through science.
The former president of Israel spoke at the recently concluded international DLD [Digital Life Design] Conference in Tel Aviv, which was attended by about 3,000 delegates, mostly entrepreneurs and innovators in various high-technology fields.
“You cannot conquer the world with war,” the Nobel Peace Prize winner said at the conference.
One cannot fight terror with terror as that would only lead to a spiral of ever escalating violence, Peres said.
Citing a different weapon to combat terror, he added: “Science is neutral.” And because it is not threatening, science invites collaboration even among peoples, including Jews and Arabs, who have not been getting along, he added.
Daniel Yakir, a young Jewish entrepreneur, nods his agreement with his former president. After a decade in military service, Yakir went to school in Virginia to study information technology. That field made him work and meet a number of people, including classmates who were Muslim.
“When they heard my story, they changed their minds about Israel,” he said. “They understood the face behind the story.”
Another entrepreneur from the host country, Gilad Peleg, said his year-old cyber security start-up has started doing business with people that he would otherwise not associate with, including businessmen from Saudi Arabia.
“Yes, business brings people from other countries together,” he said.
For Israeli entrepreneurs, taking their business overseas is a must, given the small size of the domestic market, according to a local venture capitalist.
The good thing is, Peres said, “science is borderless – it’s really global.”
He added, however, that science may not serve the purpose of its nature if practiced outside the bounds of morality. If science and technology were to fall into the wrong hands, the result could be more damaging than useful – it could cause indescribable human suffering.
Applied conscientiously, science bridges gaps among peoples of different, even conflicting, faiths, he said.
“We can and should work together,” he added.
Despite the present-day problems in Syria and elsewhere around the world involving fundamentalist groups, Peres remains optimistic about the future.
Referring to the 25-year-old and younger generation that comprise 60 percent of the population of the Middle East and Africa, he said the group shows deviation from the ways of the older generations whose lives have been shaped by conflict.
Members of the younger generation, he said, are more open to global ideas and cooperation with peoples outside their national and racial boundaries, perhaps as a result of exposure to such realities through more modern education, which incorporates science and technology into young people’s lives.
“This is our audience,” Peres said.
One of the delegates to the Tel Aviv conference was a 21-year-old engineer-entrepreneur representing a start-up from Davao, Philippines. The group of young engineers from Davao is developing a device that detects crop stress and suggests ways to help farmers deal with such effects of extreme weather conditions on their yields.