BY: David Isaac
In 1948, as Israel was heading into its first war, an IDF general sent a letter to David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s new prime minister, politely declining his offer to become chief of staff because he had learned the Jewish State only had six million bullets. “We will need 1 million bullets a day in a war and I am not willing to be chief of staff for just six days,” he wrote.
The Weapon Wizards, an engaging look at Israel’s weapons industry, is replete with such anecdotes. (Another that’s hard to resist is how Jewish forces in Jerusalem held off Arab rioters with one gun and 11 bullets. Afterward, the commander criticized the “gratuitous use of ammo.”) Such stories drive home how little Israel had militarily in its early years. Israel’s humble beginnings make it even more remarkable that it has become a military power. The goal of the authors, Israeli journalists Yaakov Katz and Amir Bohbot, is to explain how that transformation came about. As they write, 60 years ago Israel’s biggest exports were oranges and false teeth. Today, weapons make up 10 percent of Israel’s exports.
Like Start-Up Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer, Katz and Bohbot identify national characteristics that have led to a “culture of innovation.” Leading the list is a creativity born of necessity. “With barely any resources beyond the human capital that had immigrated to the new state, Israelis had to make the most of the little they had,” the authors write. Israel has even created a subunit of autistic soldiers to analyze satellite pictures.