Final thoughts on Israel

Since coming back from our whirlwind adventure in Israel two weeks ago, I have gushed to my friends and classmates about Israel’s historic landmarks, hospitable people and the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that beats throughout the country. I’ve developed a newfound appreciation for the incredible achievements that modern-day Israel has made in business – especially given the unique geopolitical challenges facing the country—as well as developed a deeper understanding of the cultural factors that have shaped Israel’s identity and in turn its business environment. Still, one week is not enough to fully map out the complexity of Israel’s history, economy or politics. These are some of the takeaways about Israel that struck me during the trip and the questions I want to continue to explore:

  • Startup nation to scaled up nation? Israel is well known for its plethora of tech startups and its strong engineering talent. However, we came across differing perspectives on whether Israel had the potential to develop startups into larger tech empires. During our trip, Intel announced it was buying autonomous driving technology firm Mobileye for $15 billion – a very successful exit for the Israeli company. While the book Startup Nation argues that the diversity of Israel’s people and mandatory military service has fostered a strong environment to build startups, can the country sustain continued growth in the tech sector? Furthermore, is the Israeli market big enough to bring startups to larger scale or is a sale to a non-Israeli company the optimal solution for Israeli startups to grow?
  • There is no one-size fits all solution to the conflict in the Middle East. What’s the next best option? Israel has very delicate relationships with its neighbors in the Middle East, many of which are in the midst of political turmoil and many of which do not support Israel’s existence. There are numerous issues underlying the conflict in the Middle East but there is no way to please all stakeholders. However, having open conversations across all countries in the region will be key to navigating the complex political environment and finding solutions that can tackle one issue at a time.
  • Israeli’s “survivor” attitude carries through into business. One of the things I appreciated the most about Israeli people is their optimistic and hopeful attitude, even in difficult times. Israelis truly are survivors and their determination to achieve the goals they set forth is an asset in the business world and something we as aspiring leaders should strive to embody.– Nathalie Tadena, CBS’18
    Chazen Israel Section B

Shalom Israel!

0138682700d04e2f8a48d20839ab7700I can’t believe that my Chazen Israel trip has come to a close! As business school students, many of my classmates and I came into the trip expecting our itinerary to focus on Israel’s business environment. But to truly understand the nuances of a country’s economy, one must first understand the underlying history and culture. This week has been incredibly inspiring and I have learned so much not only from speaker presentations and formal tours but also from hearing about the personal experiences of our trip organizers and everyday Israelis we encountered on the street.

In just our last couple of days on the trip, we woke up early to watch the sunrise at the ancient desert fortress Masada, covered ourselves in mud and floated in the Dead Sea, visited an Air Force base where we learned about the influence of mandatory military service in Israeli culture and discussed the latest technological innovations in the healthcare space with Tom Ran of the Weizmann Institute of Science. There certainly has been no shortage of activities or learnings from this week.

Prior to this trip, I had heard and read much about Israel in the news and had long associated the country with ongoing conflict. Still, I had difficulty forming my own opinions on the geopolitical issues involving the country and knew I wanted to come to Israel to better understand why it was the subject of such divisive debates.

In reflecting with my Chazen group on all that we have done and learned this week, it became apparent that the Israel we experienced on the ground was very different and far more multi-faceted than the Israel we read about in the news. I have been pleasantly surprised by the warmth the Israelis have shown us as well as the level of passion and patriotism they show for their country. Many of my classmates remarked that this trip instilled in them a newfound appreciation of Israelis as survivors who always have hope even in the face of overwhelming challenges. In many cases, my classmates saw that many of the issues that Israel faced were similar to issues their own home countries have faced.

While my classmates and I can come away from this experience with a much richer knowledge of Israel as a country, our discussions this week only scratched the surface of the complexity of Israel’s roots and challenges. As future leaders, it’s important that we continue to push ourselves to learn more about the issues that make a market unique and find ways to draw connections between different cultures.

— Nathalie Tadena ’18

 

Bridging Israel’s Past and Future

Greetings from the Dead Sea! It’s been a whirlwind of an Israel Chazen trip so far that has provided my travelmates and me with a deeper understanding of Israel’s past and new perspectives on the country’s future.

A quick recap so far —

In Tel Aviv, we interacted with the vibrant tech scene and debated whether Israel has the potential to move from a “startup nation” to a “scaled up nation” that can compete with the world’s tech giants. We heard candid remarks from former Israeli security chief Yuval Diskin about the delicate geopolitical situation in the Middle East and his belief that it is impossible that all dimensions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be solved (though he advocated that Israel, Palestine and Israel’s neighbors must all work together to solve as many of the conflict’s dimensions as possible).

In the Golan Heights, we got a glimpse across Israel’s borders into neighboring Jordan and Syria – countries that face their own complex problems and whose fates are intertwined with Israel’s –   and heard from retired Israeli Army colonel Miri Eisin about country’s most pressing security issues.

In Jerusalem, we traveled back in time to some of the most important sites in Christianity and Judaism in the Old City (including the believed tomb of Jesus); shared prayers and notes at the Wailing Wall; and were inspired by the lessons of a Holocaust survivor and delved into the painful events that led to the creation of a Jewish state at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Museum.

In the Judean desert, we experienced the warm hospitality of the Bedouin people and learned one Bedouin woman’s personal story of how she defied tradition to take a job in the hospitality industry in Israel.

While we have touched various cultures and topics throughout our travels these last few days, the extreme complexity of both Israel’s history and the challenges that will impact its future has been a recurring theme throughout our discussions. For example, it is impossible to fully dissect the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, let alone come up with a resolution, in a matter of days. However, this trip has highlighted the importance of asking questions to better understand the elements that shaped the world, cultures and politics around us and the need to spread awareness about complex topics.

— Nathalie Tadena, CBS ’18

 

Countdown to Tel Aviv

Israel has long been on my bucket list of places to explore. I’ve always been fascinated by the complexity of Israel’s history, the country’s rich and diverse culture and its unique role in global politics. From a business standpoint, Israel’s economic development in the face of many challenges also makes for an interesting case study. This week, I’ll have the chance to learn more about Israel beyond the headlines in the news with 80 of my CBS classmates on the Chazen Israel trip.

Our first weekend in Israel coincides with Purim– a festival that commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia against Haman’s army.  Today, Israelis dress up in costumes to celebrate and many of my classmates who arrived early are already getting the Purim festivities underway. I hope to come away from the trip with a deeper appreciation and knowledge of the many religions that have roots in Israel.

Aside from experiencing Israel’s vibrant culture and seeing the sights in Tel Aviv, the Golan Heights, Jerusalem, Masada and the Dead Sea, we’ll also learn more about Israel as a hotbed for technology and innovation. The country, with a population of only 8 million, boasts the highest per-capital concentration of tech startups and engineers in the world. Ahead of the trip, our trip organizers gave us copies of Dan Senor and Saul Singer’s book Startup Nation, which argues that immigration and mandatory military service are the major drivers behind Israel’s “high-tech miracle.” We’ll be meeting with leaders from Israel’s science, technology and defense industries and even the Mayor of Jerusalem.

Check back for more dispatches soon!

Nathalie Tadena ‘18
Chazen Israel Section B