During winter semester break, 40 select US college students are in Israel on TAVtech, a nonprofit coding and entrepreneurship fellowship connecting them to Israel’s startup ecosystem while teaching them impactful skills and exposing them to cutting-edge technology.

“This program takes place in Israel because we want students to be exposed to the most incredible startup ecosystem and most incredible story of startups that exists in the world due to the culture of the Israeli people and story of the state of Israel,” says TAVtech CEO Phil Hayes.

“If you are to understand why Israeli technologies are so successful in fields like machine learning, you have to come here and see the various forces at play that make this such a hotbed of innovation,” he tells ISRAEL21c.

About 300 students applied for the second cohort of TAVtech, yielding 40 participants from a range of majors at Harvard, New York University, Brown, Cornell, Georgetown, UC-Berkeley and Queens.

“We choose applicants based on what kind of positive impact they can have with the skills they will learn, and their passion for learning these skills,” says Hayes.

Based at Barclay’s Rise Tel Aviv fintech accelerator from December 21 to January 22, the fellows learn to code and listen to presentations from Israeli experts such as Michael Eisenberg of Aleph venture capital fund, attorney Oded Har-Even, and Israel Cleantech Ventures partner Jack Levy.

Fellows who are already advanced in computer science are delving into topics such as cybersecurity, big data and machine learning.

TAVtech heavily subsidizes the cost of the program in partnership with Onward Israel and several foundations and federations, primarily Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP).

The students, not all of whom are Jewish, also spend time in Jerusalem, southern Israel and Haifa.

“After the program we keep students engaged in our community and help them make a positive impact,” says Hayes. “We pair them with volunteer opportunities to teach computer skills to underprivileged students. We also help them find mentors and potential funders if they decide to start a venture that makes a social impact.”