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Journey to Israel diary: Day One

Posted By Abigail Klein Leichman On October 23, 2013 @ 7:05 am In Behind the scenes at ISRAEL21c | No Comments

The Journey to Israel group in the Old City of Jerusalem. That’s me, third from right in the blue skirt. Photo by Ariel Jerozolimski

I get to write about Israeli innovation every day of the week. What I don’t get to do is meet the people who read these stories – until yesterday, when I accompanied our Journey to Israel visitors on a day packed with wonder.

We started with a talk by Wendy Singer, executive director of the new Start-Up Nation Institute, and went on to a fascinating presentation at Mobileye, the Jerusalem-based company whose groundbreaking technology for identifying driving hazards is going into virtually every new vehicle in the world – making Mobileye the largest private high-tech company in Israel and the largest R&D center for artificial vision in the world.

Then, in a stark contrast, Keshet tour guide Kayla Ship took us back in time to the Old City of Jerusalem, showing us artifacts and archeological sites from more than 2,000 years ago.

We went back further still in a marvelous Israel Museum tour led by Elana Ben-Haim, using quotations from ISRAEL21c articles and passages from the book Start-Up Nation to draw parallels between current and ancient Israeli innovation.

Just one nugget: Jews developed the scribal art of micrography – creating biblically based artworks from nearly microscopic letters of the Hebrew alphabet – and then in modern times invented the microchips that power computers and wireless devices. Pretty cool comparison!

Wherever we went, participants were eager to learn more about the “secret sauce” of Israeli ingenuity from those who live it every day.

The inaugural ISRAEL21c Journey to Israel sets off. Photo by Ariel Jerozolimski

I’ll write more about the tour when it draws to a close at the end of the week. For now, I want to share some participants’ words about how ISRAEL21c has impacted them and why they signed up for the trip.

Karen Ostrove from Elizabeth, New Jersey: “I am the director of education for the Celebrate Israel Parade [in Manhattan]. I work with 200 marching groups, providing all kinds of information so they can share it with the 35,000 marchers and others from their schools, synagogues, youth groups, campus groups, AMIT, JNF, Hadassah and all the other organizations that participate. ISRAEL21c has been my main source of information. I embed the videos and stories from the website into my theme book.”

Martino Agostini from Rome, Italy: “I registered for the trip after reading about it in ISRAEL21c’s newsletter, which I started reading a few months ago. I was very curious. I was never here [in Israel], and everything I read gave me a picture and I wanted to be here to see if the picture was the reality. I wanted to see it with my heart.”

Bob Rifkin from Chicago, Illinois: “I write a weekly newsletter for my congregation called ‘Real Israel,’ and when I found ISRAEL21c online a few years ago I began interspersing my own writing with your material. It’s become a wonderful source for information. I’ve become just amazed at what goes on in this country.”

Here we are getting a briefing on Mobileye from Director of Business Development Iain Levy. Photo by Ariel Jerozolimski

Melinda Travis from California and Washington State: “I heard about the trip from [fellow participant] Cynthia Stroum, who read about it in the newsletter. That was my first exposure to ISRAEL21c. I read the itinerary and read up on some of the companies, and I thought it sounded really exciting to learn about the cutting-edge technology that Israel was doing in different areas. I’ve never been to Israel before.”

Dr. Eli Taub of Los Angeles, California: “I look at the ISRAEL21c website every week. It’s a fabulous tour guide. I print out the articles about tourism – the best hikes, the best places for chocolate lovers, the winter festivals in Jerusalem — and I keep them in a file and write down names of places to go on our next trip to Israel.”

Susan Libitzky of Piedmont, California, ISRAEL21c board member: “I am interested in spreading the word about what makes Israel unique; what makes the energy of Israel and the passion come to life in businesses in so many enterprises.”

You said it, Susan! More to come.

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