Inundated as we are with obtuse, irrelevant, and just plain dumb ideas all day, every day, TED – the Conference on Technology, Entertainment, Design — has emerged as a haven of intelligence, where lucky attendees have been able to hear the world’s greatest thinkers share their ideas and experiences, inspiring them to live fuller and richer lives.
TED started out in 1984 as an annual conference in California, and today, there are hundreds of TED-related events worldwide, many of them in the context of TEDx, a sort of “TED franchise” designed to help residents of countries around the world get in touch with great ideas and thinkers in their home countries, as well as from abroad.
This past week, Jerusalem had its very own official TEDx event, with a range of speakers discussing everything from medicine to food to technology to art, along with music and dance performances. An impressive range of speakers, mostly Israelis (Jewish and Arab) who are involved in notable, exceptional, and unique activities and who had a good story to tell, were on stage at Jerusalem’s YMCA, discussing ideas like “curing cancer cells with golden nano-particles” (Dr. Amal Ayoub of the Nazareth-based biotech company Metallo Therapy), “Ancient Future Objects” (Adital Ela, a well-known Israeli industrial designer), and “The Power of Polarities” (Shoshana Boyd Gelfand, director of London’s Jhub), among others.
This wasn’t the first TED event in Israel; there have been official events in Tel Aviv and Jaffa, and unofficial events in Jerusalem and other Israeli cities. In addition, there have been events in Ramallah and Gaza. Altogether, about 500 people gathered for the 16 speeches and the four performances at the event.
One of the big surprises at many TED events is the extent of accomplishment of many of the speakers. TED speakers tend to be “unsung heroes” — people doing important things, who are not well known to the public, but whose contributions to their field are often very important. That was the case at TEDx Jerusalem as well, where several of the speakers were “outed” as having had a major impact not just in Israel, but in the world as well.
One of the speakers, for example, was Gideon Amichay, who for nearly a decade was the chief creative officer of the Israeli outlet of the Young and Rubicam ad agency, which, thanks to Amichay, won no fewer than 19 Cannes Lions at the annual ad industry event, and is author of a book called “No, No, No, No, No, No, No, Yes,” which, among other things, chronicles his efforts to design a cover for the New Yorker Magazine, which he was eventually able to do after many rejections. He spoke about his philosophy of “No,” which he calls a “tool, not a rejection.” No, he said, is not a reason to give up and go home, but “the beginning of a journey to Yes.”
Also speaking was one of Israel’s most accomplished and eclectic tech entrepreneurs, Yanki Margalit, who at age 23 established Aladdin Knowledge Systems, which specializes in digital rights management. Aladdin remained an Israeli company until 2009, when it was acquired by private equity firm Vector Capital. Margalit is now chairman of SpaceIL, the group that aims to put an Israeli man on the moon. Margalit’s talk, “Dream it — Make it,” discussed some of his experiences, as well as his hopes for the future — and specifically how the SpaceIL project will hopefully encourage Israeli youngsters to pursue careers in math and science.
In one of the more unusual presentations, Michal Ansky, a well-known food journalist and television presenter (and also a judge on the Israeli edition of the MasterChef television program) discussed “The danger of eating your memories,” about how our memories are an integral part of our food. In a radio interview, Ansky said that she was honored to have been chosen to speak at TEDx, but was horrified to hear that she would only have seven minutes to say her piece. Nevertheless, she was able to put together something coherent. To her Twitter followers after the lecture, Ansky wrote that speaking at TEDx “was one of the greatest moments of my life.”