Wrapping up the Israel Chazen Study Tour, here are the five biggest pleasant surprises I came across:
Coffee: From neighborhood cafes to national chains like Aroma (note: it is the Israeli version of Starbucks, and they have a branch in SoHo too!), coffee in Israel never disappointed me. You might not expect that coffee is an Israeli specialty, but many of us were very impressed by the quality of coffee here (much better than the US!), thanks to a different type of milk and coffee bean.
Cats everywhere: Israel might well be a paradise for cat lovers. We found cats in almost single restaurant we went to, and this definitely enhanced our general dining experience with cute cats being our accompany!
People’s passion for the country: From taxi drivers to random people on the streets, locals here are very eager to learn about our experiences in Israel and make sure we are having a good time. We have been greeted with “Welcome to Israel!” in almost all conversations I have had with shopkeepers, waitresses and hotel staff etc. Their passion is of course legitimate – who would not fall in love with a country that can offer so many different things to do for visitors?
The Election: the prime minister election took place during our trip. It was certainly a big, big day in the country. Our tour guide and organizers were all extremely passionate about it, and it seemed like everyone was talking about the Election Day. Such high level of political awareness impressed me a lot, and made me wish I had the right to vote for the PM too!
Israel’s commitment for humanity: Everyone knows Israel is a start-up nation that the number of start-ups per capita is the highest in the world. However, from our company visits, I had the impression that the country’s passion for start-ups is not merely for money. Rather, Israeli people have a more noble vision: they want to change the world and contribute to the human race. Their entrepreneurial spirit and risk-taking attitude is truly inspiring, and in fact, given the small yet developed market in Israel, it is a perfect environment for companies to test out innovative ideas, which can subsequently be applied to the world. It is thus not a surprise that most tech giants like Google and Sony set up R&D centers in Israel.
To conclude, for me this Chazen trip to Israel is not just about learning about a foreign culture or visiting historical sites. Rather, my biggest takeaway was what I learned from Israeli’s passion – for the country, and for humanity. They taught me that even in adverse environments, as long as we dare to risk and be persistent, miracles can happen, just like how Israel has become an economically powerful and influential country in just 60 years, despite the frequency of wars and unstable geopolitical situation in the Middle East.
Last but not least, I must thank our three organizers Adi, Daniel and Rachel, our faculty advisor Professor Kalay and our tour guide Steve for making this trip such a successful and inspiring one. They showed us the best of Israel in just a week, and all of us had such an amazing time here.
Israel, goodbye for now, but I will definitely come visit you again sometime in the future!