Admittedly, I was a little apprehensive about traveling to Israel. I was considerably older than most of my WPMBA classmates. I have a wife and three children who, at the time, were 13, 12, and 10, and I have a full-time law practice. And, of course, the State Department had issued travel warnings to U.S. citizens for portions of Israel. Nevertheless, I was driven by the missed opportunities of my college years, and off to Israel I traveled over the 2016 Spring Break. Let me share three reasons why I think you should participate in Innovation Israel too.
- Go to Israel because the business climate is innovative and learner friendly.
I landed in Israel on a Saturday afternoon (the Jewish Sabbath), and we left for our first business meeting the following morning. We met with two companies each day from Sunday through Thursday. That may sound a little daunting, but consider the value of the opportunity to meet with company executives who, for the most part, were candid and open to answering questions about strategy, competition, marketing, intellectual property, etc. Many of the executives with whom we met did not even bristle at being challenged by our questions. My favorite example is a company called Somatix that uses data collected from wearables to help smokers quit. We raised a number of challenges related to data collection, privacy, and user rebellion that the CEO very calmly considered and addressed. The business experience alone was worthwhile.
- Go to Israel because the culture is stimulating.
To my surprise, Israel was very western. Every Israeli I encountered at hotels, shops, restaurants, and bars, smoothly and happily transitioned to English. I never felt remotely unsafe in Israel too, despite the fact that our media often sadly portrays Israel as a war zone. You might be surprised to learn that Jews and Muslims live and work with one another peacefully every day in Israel. We also enjoyed a highly educational Shabbat dinner with a young Jewish family during our visit, and lunched one afternoon in a Druze village on Mt. Carmel. The Dead Sea was neat too, but do not feel bad if you decline the urgings of your classmates to enter the sea and cover yourself in its slimy mud – I didn’t. The highlight for me, as a person of faith, was our tour of the Old City of Jerusalem. However, even if you are not a person of faith, the rich history and significance of Jerusalem is overwhelming.
- Go to Israel because it is a visually stunning country.
The Mediterranean Sea and coast are absolutely beautiful. The Israeli-invented drip irrigation systems have turned barren desert into lush fields of agricultural products. The view of the Mediterranean from the ridge of Mt. Carmel while looking down over Haifa is breathtaking. Every bus ride was an optical adventure. Oh, and I almost forgot, the food is amazing.
Do not let your graduate school experience end without a trip to Israel. Take advantage of the opportunity now and get academic credit in the process. Experience business in another culture; intimately experience another culture; experience beauty in another part of the world; and get to know some of your classmates better in the process. Don’t wait – Go now!