Final Destination: Golan Heights and my Reflections on Chazen Israel

Within the narrow and long country of Israel, there is a variety in terms of landscapes, architecture, culture, and yet the people in every city as extremely warm, friendly, and humble! After being in the metropolitan city of Tel Aviv followed by natural beauty of Dead Sea, and the charm of ancient city of Jerusalem, we traveled north to see the Bahai Gardens briefly, and go further to Golan Heights, a very peaceful place given its close proximity to the Syrian border.

Bahai Gardens exist in many parts of the world but have a sense of consistency that follows each one of them. As you can see from the picture below, they are extremely well kept, symmetrical, gorgeous, and peaceful places.

Bahai Gardens
Bahai Gardens

Our next stop was Golan Heights, which was the most calm place for where it is situated. We stayed in Kibbutz, which has cottages surrounded by natural beauty of mountains and are self-sufficient. These cottages are mostly for locals, while a few are reserved for tourists who come to visit. I was keen to learn more after coming back and you can read more about it here.

Golan Heights Kibbutz

Golan Heights Kibbutz

All of us got to explore Golan Heights in a really unique manner by driving ATVs or horse riding on the mountains. The views and experience for everyone was unmatched anything we’ve done before. The tour guides explained significance and proximity to Syria, and talked about how safe everyone felt in the community. I did the horse riding and was completely blown away by the beautiful landscape, as every moment of this was stunning and serene. While horse riding, we had some hilarious moments of bonding when one of the horses refused to cooperate and started eating grass every time we would stop for a few seconds. Also, we had a dog who was leading the group of horses along with the tour guide, which was really funny to observe.

#CBSatthecenter of hiking in ATVs

#CBSatthecenter of hiking in ATVs

Horse riding very close to the Syrian boarder in Golan Heights
Horse riding very close to the Syrian boarder in Golan Heights

Our next stop was Golan Height winery, where we got a tour from this really adorable old man about how the wines are made, what process and barrel are used, and why. Many of us were thinking back to our operations and finance class cases on wines. The wines were delicious and a great end to incredibly amazing trip!

Golan Heights Winery
Golan Heights Winery

After a 3 hours bus ride, we reached Tel Aviv and met at the beach right before sunset to reflect on the best moments of the trip while toasting with our Golan Heights’ champagnes! We went around to talk about some of our best memories, which included:

BEST PEOPLE: meeting some of the best people at CBS and feeling like we had just made a really close group of amazing friends for life. Most of us did not know each other and this trip really helped us bond and get to know each other so well! I would also say that I didn’t know our trip planners, Yoav or Guy, very well before this trip and seeing the country through their eyes, asking them questions and their opinions, and getting to know them was one of my favorite things!

MOUTHWATERING FOOD: we LOVED the food, every meal was delicious, fresh, unique, and one of the most fun bonding experiences. Apart from the food, the ambiance of the places we visited, and the exclusivity and opportunity to have us take over the place made the experience memorable. My favorite was when all the chefs came out and created our very own dessert table by dancing and throwing various flavors of ice cream with toppings and fudge on a table covered with aluminum foil! It was spectacular and SO delicious!

PLACES: From the Dead Sea to holocaust memorial, the Old City of Jerusalem to Golan Heights, the Bahai gardens and air-force base, and everything in between, we were pleasantly surprised and shocked by the beauty, significance, and history of each place we visited. I was in awe each time, and every place after surpassed by expectation. I learned so much, not only through our visits and speakers, but also by learning about the places and having conversations with my peers afterwards.

Reflections
Reflecting on our last day by the beach

For most of us, this trip was the first time in the Middle East and in Israel. Even for those re-visiting some of these places, they said the city never fails to be magical and teach them something new. This trip has been one of the most memorable of all my travels and inspired me to go back to Israel to explore more.

Aditi Sahani ’15, Chazen Israel

 

Magical Moments in Jerusalem

From the new metropolitan city of Tel Aviv, we headed in our bus towards one of the most powerful museums I have ever visited: Yad VaShem, the Holocaust Memorial.  It is built with the vision that people will never forget what happened by gaining a good understanding, and coming out of the museum hopeful about the future of the country rather than angry. We had two tour guides, who walked us through the museum in chronological order, sharing stories and pointing us towards the minute details of how each transition over 4.5 years is reflected in the physical ambiance, and describing the brutal murder of 6 million innocent Jews. Although most of us have read books or seen movies about the Holocaust, as we walked through each exhibit, we felt chills down our back and the expressions on our faces were unable to accept the reality of inhumane treatment in the concentrations camps. I found it extremely informative and emotionally challenging. But it was illustrated to evoke emotions and sentiments and I was glad we could visit for a few hours as it put a lot of things in perspective regarding the struggles and strengths of Israelis.

Our next stop was Jerusalem, which was one of the most anticipated parts of our trip due to the history and beauty. As we drove, we could see how all of the architecture looks the same and all exteriors are made of a particular type of stone. We stayed at the beautiful Mamila Hotel, and our afternoon began with a crash course on Israeli Economy. We got to meet with the Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister, Eugene Kandell, and the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat at the city council. I was really captivated by both of their presentations, their enthusiasm, belief in Israel’s human capital and the determination to grow, scale, and be self-sufficient by playing on the strengths. I loved when the Mayor talked about being a brand manager for the City of Jerusalem, taking initiatives that may not have been thought about before by treating the city as a product.

Nir Barkat – Mayor of Jerusalem

The next day, we began with a trip to the Dead Sea, which was so much FUN as you can see from our picture below! It was an incredible experience floating in the water, unable to swim, and being surrounded by mountains and gorgeous natural beauty. We got to rub mud that is supposed to be full of minerals and oils all over and have a mini competition on who does it best!

Dead Sea: #CBSatTheCenter of Beauty
Dead Sea: #CBSatTheCenter of Beauty. Photo Credit: Leslie Pebbles
Our incredible Israeli hosts, Yoav Rand & Guy Rejwan '15, relaxing at the Dead Sea
Our incredible Israeli hosts, Yoav Rand & Guy Rejwan ’15, relaxing at the Dead Sea

After our memorable visit at the Dead Sea, we finally headed for the tour of the Old City of Jerusalem, an ancient place that is considered holy for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Our tour guide was immensely valuable as he shared a ton of stories about each ethnic quarter, significant religious memorials, and stereotypes. It was an immersive experience watching the locals, the businesses, and the tourists all hustle through these ancient streets that I had only seen in pictures before.

Old City of Jerusalem
Old City of Jerusalem, Photo Credit: Mimi Vavilala

As I mentioned in my earlier posts, one of my favorite things about this trip was surprisingly delicious meals and really fun restaurant experiences. Our dinner at Machne Yehuda, a hip and trendy restaurant, surpassed all expectations and toped off the night. We had the place booked to ourselves, and what slowly started as dinner, turned into a dancing night with some of the popular songs of 1990’s and 2000’s. We also had a birthday celebration, where 6-7 of the chefs came out and created a dessert table with the BEST ICE CREAM SUNDAY I have ever had! It was truly an experience as none of us knew what was going on as the chefs danced to the music beats and within 2 minutes created what you see below in a long rectangular table covered with aluminum foil! Dessert was followed by more dancing and celebrations of all of us being in Jerusalem for our last night before we hit the road again the next morning!

Dessert Table Experience with Ice Cream Sunday created in front of our eyes
Dessert Table Experience with Ice Cream Sunday created in front of our eyes

Aditi Sahani ’15, Chazen Israel

Tel Aviv: The Silicon Wadi

March 15-18, 2014

We had facinating few days in Tel Aviv, the Silicon Wadi. “Wadi” means valley in Arabic, and Tel Aviv is the considered second in importance to Silicon Vally in California. Chazen Israel trip started with an authentic middle eastern dinner in high energy as the whole group came together. The restaurant was in Old Jaffa, one of ancient cities of Israel that has a neat history along with stunning architecture. Below is a picture taken by Victor Xin ’15 of the first course.

20140322-213044.jpg
After our first night of bonding over dinner and drinks at a lounge, a few of us got attacked by ghosts and zombies while exploring the streets of Tel Aviv. These were locals dressed in costumes for Purim holiday, walking around the famous Rothchild street.
20140322-213303.jpg

Photo credit to Mimi Vavilala ’15

We started our company visits on a Sunday, which is a working day in Israel, with the largest pharmacutical company that produces generic drugs called Teva. It’s Tel Aviv facility is the largest in the world as it produces over 73 billion pills each year, which equates to every 1 in 6 pills being filled by them in US and UK. After hearing about the industry and Teva’s innovative approach to scale and grow their business through mergers and acquisitions, we got a tour of the manufacturing plant. We saw how drugs were made and wore the same uniforms that employees wear from head to toe on manufacturing floor. Teva reminded most of us of our recently taken operations management class, given managing capacity and quality control as well as inventory were prime concerns for the company.
20140322-213458.jpg

For a country so well known for innovation and creativity in business, especially in healthcare and technology, we learned that Venture Capital industry is fairly recently established in early 1990’s. We heard from the founding fathers of Venture Capital industry in Israel, Ed Mlavsky at Gemini Ventures. Ed described how there was a strong need to increase business between USA and Israel that was not tied with military efforts. As a result, government started an initiative called Yozma, where the government invested equity upto $8M in funds that were able to raise private funding of minimum $12M. This is how companies like Gemini capital emerged with $20M VC fund, and they need both American and Israeli leadership.
20140322-213631.jpg

Hearing about the Yozma program became a common theme as we went to company visits at Google and Bank Hapoalim the next day. Google has a gorgeous office with 7 floors, one of which is completely dedicated to developers in start-up space having access to training and resources at Google. The reason many technology multinationals have their offices in Tel Aviv is to take advantage of the human capital for their R&D centers.
20140322-213803.jpg

Photo above is at Google office on their famous slide. Photo credit to Stephanie Bloom ’15

Bank Hapoalim Chairman also spoke to us and welcomed us at their headquarters. He spoke about the macro economic trends that impacted the country in the past, and how the new start-up culture helped improve the competitive advantage as Israel is a small country and needs to leverage it’s human capital.
20140322-214002.jpg

Between our intense yet extremely informative company visits, we had some of the best food Tel Aviv has to offer. Trent Sisson ’15 mentioned his favorite dinner was on the first night at the Mediterranean place in Old Jaffa, Tel Aviv.
During our stay, we were accompanied by a funny Israeli tour guide, Uri, who made this experience even richer with his narratives and personality. Uri took us on a walking tour Old Jaffa, the city that has been built and rebuilt many times. It was the beginning to our first of many tours of Israeli historic architecture and its significance. I loved Old Jaffa as it had a contrasting personality compared by modern metropolitan Tel Aviv. It was easy to get lost wondering through the narrow lanes and being awestruck by the ancient architecture.
20140322-214315.jpg

Aditi Sahani ’15, Israel

It’s time for Israel

I am fascinated by all the travel opportunities we have as MBA students. There are way more options than I imagined but what has attracted me the most are the programs organized through Chazen Institute that are led by students.

I am thrilled to visit Israel for a week long cultural and social deep dive with 35 other classmates!! I don’t know if it would have been on top of my list before business school. However, after hearing about Israel from my cluster mate and a good friend, Rachel, I was pumped to visit her country and see all things first hand that she spoke about. From the delicious food to gorgeous beaches, understanding the cultural dynamics of people and personalities, and learning about different industries through company visits.

This year’s trip is led by Guy Rejwan ’15 and Yoav Rand ’15, who shared with us details about the trip as well as some tips on what to watch out for. Below is a picture of some things that are must eat, and I can’t wait to try them!!

20140315-174516.jpg

Though a small country, Israel offers a variety that is on extreme ends of the horizon, from Tel Aviv, a modern metropolitan city, to visiting Jerusalem, the mecca of holy land, and everything in between. I believe travel is one of the finest ways to get to know my classmates, and I am looking forward to bonding with old and new friends over our cultural excursion. Watch out for pictures and first hand impressions as we explore each city we visit in Israel! More pictures on Instagram and Twitter if you follow #cbschazentravel

I am ready for all of the CBS Chazen Israel crew to unite for the first time in Tel Aviv. Can’t wait to explore the city, starting with dinner at one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, Jaffa!

Aditi Sahani ’15, Israel