Qiryat Ata, Haifa, Israel at 1:26pm IST.
tagged as israel tag leader ThomasWilliam
The morning started with a comprehensive guest speaker over a private breakfast. Glenn Yago of the Miliken Institute Israel Center spoke in broad strokes and with fascinating data about the trends that Israel is seeing and some of the challenges it is facing. Fantastic speaker with tremendous content. We were wondering why we waited until the last day to hear him speak! It was an excellent way to end a lot of the business content of the trip and we were grateful to hear from him.
The morning quickly turned somber with a tour of Yad Vashem, the holocaust memorial in Israel. It was a truly stunning laid out beautifully. The entire museum is underground and is built as a triangular solid with the only natural light coming from the triangular tip of windows above the ground. One zig-zags through the memorial passing under the natural light, with nearly all of the exhibits entirely in darkness. We have all seen Holocaust memorials and are uncomprehending of the enormousness of understanding it, but this really moved all of us to tears. It was gorgeous and named as many of the dead and the survivors providing stories and powerful moments throughout the building of the movement. Just incredible.
We each slowly came to life a bit at a time as we made our way to Notre Dame, the French pension for pilgrims to Jerusalem (to point out the contentious claims on the land and its sanctity again, from Notre Dame, you could see the Italian, Greek, and Armenian pensions and those are the only ones I remember) which has a lovely restaurant up top with lovely views of the city. We started with a salad and a cheese plate. To be followed by a main course of a hunk of cheese cooked (probably provolone) served with some roasted vegetables! Shocking. Delicious, of course. I don't think anyone ate more than a couple bites.
We had a short bit of leisure time during which we broke into smaller groups to explore on our own. I really wanted to do the Via Dolorosa as did a couple others. So, we went to the Western Wall straight away. It struck me as much smaller than I have imagined from photos and other images. However, it was nice to be there. Not terribly surprisingly, about 2/3 of the access to the wall is devoted to the men and about 1/3 to women. Apparently, the men's section has access to the closest point at which you can reach the original wall of the temple. We all went up and prayed a bit and gathered before going to the Via Dolorosa.
Fortunately, one of our party was smart enough to bring the guide book with the general map and instructions. It couldn't help us entirely, but it was a good guide, and with the help of some friendly locals (some of whom were a bit opportunistic), we were able to hit most of the stations. It was fascinating to see the different styles of all of the memorials in the stations. It would be fascinating to research how it was formalized in the way it is currently. But seeing several small chapels tucked in among the small alleyways of the old city was even enough for me. Nine of the stations were among the winding streets and the remaining five were in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Our plan was to do them all, getting some rosaries to bless before entering the church. At about dusk, before we headed into the church, we heard the air raid sirens. Odd thing, though, no one moved. No one was rushing for cover, no one was anxious or worried. We seemed like the only tourists in the alleys for a while. One shop owner simply laughed and said, "Jerusalem," as if, go figure! I was a bit nervous, but decided to take my cues from those around me and continue so we could get back to the hotel. When we arrived at the church, there were many tourist groups still moving around and a service about to start. I think the service was Armenian Orthodox, and we slipped in just before they restricted entry for a few minutes. It was about 8 male priests praying around the anointing stone before processing to different part of the church. We were lucky to witness it before blessing our rosaries, trying to get up to the orthodox section to touch the stone and returning to the hotel in a cab (who apparently had a hard time finding anyone to take us as they did not want to run by the meter).
The evening was a special and lovely private Shabbat dinner in a home. The host had invited many interesting guests who were professors, curators, former ambassadors, teachers, and socialites in Israel. It was a high-powered bunch and it was a pleasure to hear from them as well as enjoy a very nice dinner.
It seemed such a short stay to be packing up, but tomorrow we have Masada and the Dead Sea and then we return to the airport for our flights home.
Another early morning got us packing on our way to Jerusalem. I tried very hard to stay awake for the bus ride, but did end up succumbing to fatigue, especially considering my late night.
Our first stop was Hebrew University. It is just a stunning campus on a hill overlooking the Old City. It was a bit of a cloudy day, but everything was so close that we could see all of the old city laid out before us. We went on a brief tour and were shown a large mural of the establishment of the university. Interesting place with an initial board of governors comprising several prominent individuals, including Einstein, Buber, and Freud! It was beautifully sculpted with labyrinthine pathways through sculpted gardens and fountains. Of course, it would not be this part of the world if they didn't find ossuaries in the stones, some of which are open to public viewing. We were surprised to find a building named for Frank Sinatra, who was apparently a big contributor. The building next door was the cafeteria, which was bombed in 2006, I believe. And beside that, a building named for Nancy Reagan. Our guide was less convinced of her actual interest or involvement and instead suggested that her name was there due to the work of a foundation that she funded.
There was a long line of impressive speakers in a small lecture venue for us: a Biochemist who is now the head of the Technology Transfer Organization that connects Hebrew University to commercial interests to get innovations out of solely academic hands, the director of marketing for the same TTO, a professor of business at Hebrew University, and a woman who is running a third party study abroad organization. It was an interesting group, some highly technical, others reinforcing some of the same concepts that we have heard from business organizations.
Our afternoon was spent on a circuitous tour of the Old City of Jerusalem. It was astounding to see all of the contested religious ground and how it is marketed, sold, and hallowed in this day and age. The most moving, unsurprisingly, was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site where Jesus is said to have been crucified, buried, and resurrected. Several churches share ownership of the church and perform their services on a tight schedule. We saw the tail end of a Catholic service which actually prevented us from seeing the remaining stations of the cross. Others who claim time and space in the church are the Greek Orthodox church and the Roman Catholics. As we entered, the stone upon which Jesus was anointed sat. Many purchased rosaries and prayer shawls to rub on the stone to bless those items. I didn't have the time to do so, but am hoping to return to do the same later. We also saw a place that was important to Catholics beside one holy to Orthodox Christians, said to be the stone upon which Jesus was crucified. It was a beautiful, dark, old stone church under green-lined minaret from the mosque next store, highlighting the continual conquests.
We had a moment to get lunch in the old city, and I finally got my hands on a falafel. It was huge and not great (as I'm sure purists know), but was loaded up with all manner of vegetable salads and condiments, including french fries (unlike the ones at home). Ah well, I tried. Others went for burgers or pizza or just shopping since we've eaten so much. One member of our group was smart and went to the bakery to get us all chocolate rugelach. Oh my. It was incredible. Just more buttery and soft and warm than any that I have every tried. Amazing.
In the early evening, we went to a very exciting visit with Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP). I think the contact who brought us around carried herself with such infectious energy, you couldn't help but being excited. JVP carries start-ups to their potential and they co-locate the start-ups that they support on location. Their campus is beautiful and sprawling, but designed in such a way that all of the offices of the start-ups open onto a courtyard in which they are meant to cross-pollinate and support one another. They also have created a media space where they hold concerts and night spots. I think they are trying to make it a center of culture as well as business. A cool idea. Like the Google campus, maybe?
We checked into the Inbal hotel and had about 45 minutes to get ready for our dinner. It was the first opportunity I had to work out this whole time, so I took advantage of a 20 minute elliptical ride to feel a bit better about myself.
Dinner that evening was at the Eucalyptus, the restaurant of a famous local chef, Moshe Basson, who has also worked at famed locations around the world bringing local fare to global fame. It was all local, fresh, and delicious. In the beginning, he even came out with a basket of local plants to smell and touch to show the tools of his trade. A couple impressive pieces were a gigantic paella-like dish that was upended and blessed before serving. After the dinner, we had a performance by a University music professor Taiseer Elias on oud and percussionist Zohar Fresco. Lovely performance.
After dinner, it was such a lovely evening that a couple of us decided to walk back to the hotel. We ended up walking through a new open-air mall made of an old ruin. There were a lot of high-end global brands and silversmiths and the like. It was beautiful with the fairy lights strung above and a lot of folks walking around. We noticed several numbered stones on the facade of one of the shops and ducked in to ask if they had any meaning. They used the numbering system to remove the blocks to storage while they were renovating the shop spaces. That way, they would best know how to return them to the place they fit best.
I also learned this evening that all of the buildings in Jerusalem must be built with Jerusalem limestone. When illuminated, it looks gold, hence the moniker, City of Gold. I believe there is one building that was not built under this mandate, but even now, when making a home, if full limestone bricks are too expensive, you must dust the outer materials in the limestone.
A couple other buildings of note on the way back to the hotel are the famous King David Hotel, an old-style British imperial hotel that still very much looks that way. We did a quick walk through and despite the late hour, there were kids and families everywhere. Across the street was a majestic looking domed building, which turned out to be a YMCA!
Along the hill on the way back, we also passed a very large windmill that looked of Dutch provenance. You can see it from all over the old city. According to our guide, the windmill was erected to convince a contingent of Jews to move out of the Old City as it would provide work. However, when they moved out, they realized that there wasn't nearly enough wind to run it and the grain was much harder in Israel than the ones it was designed for. Hilarious that it is still standing.
Our first stop this morning was to an average looking strip mall housing a revolutionary innovation. Argo is a small company seeking to solve the problem of individuals who cannot walk with a device called the ReWalk. As opposed to using a wheel chair, the ReWalk allows you to walk by strapping on a device using gyroscope, accelerometer, and technology that, like unassisted walking relies on the body's tilting off balance to walk. In the strip mall was housed the entire R&D team and training facility. Walking with assistance improved the health of the non-walking individuals through movement, strengthening the core, muscle stimulation, and increased access to care. And innovative and affordable device and company.
This morning, we had an exciting start to the the day, driving out to the IDF's Ramat David Air Force Base. Military service is an essential piece to understanding the worldview and lifestyle of the Israeli people. The army is conscripted of all of the young population of the country, who are required to serve a minimum of two years. Many serve longer, especially if they are selected into one of the elite divisions. The airforce is one such elite division and they pretty much have their pick of the best students to train and utilize. Even after the service, many Israelis stay on in the reserves and return to train for a month a year, or in the case of the air force, one day a week.
The two pilots who showed us around were reservists and instructors, a financial services entrepreneur and a man of South African parentage and cute as a button. It was a fascinating tour and presentation. We first toured their a lounge and a heritage section of kills both direct and indirect and important people who have served in the regiment. The presentation moved to the strategy and debrief room where we discussed time-pressed, ethical decision-making. We went through some real ethical dilemmas they have faced and watched video of the engagement from the pilot. Absolutely incredible, especially when you think about the 20 year old carrying out this mission. It is emblematic of the maturity one develops over a short time in the IDF, and as a nation when one develops all citizens in this way. One thing that stuck with me was a discussion of the strategy involved in reducing civilian impacts in military missions. We saw a copy of a letter written by an American general praising the Israeli Defense Force for going above and beyond to protect civilians in challenging military missions. The speaker was posed a "What if. . ?" question surrounding civilian casualties and he basically said he would turn around and return home if he felt compelled to complete a mission that posed ethical dilemmas such as this. He maintained that this was the only way he could continue to go up in the planes every day and the only way the government could continue to get people signing up to continue in the reserves. This has been a continual refrain from business leaders and cultural translators identifying reasons the Israeli workforce is agile, entrepreneurial, and decisive.
Lunch was another delicious and abundant affair at Noura's Kitchen in the Druze village Daliyat el-Karmel. Lots of lovely food made with a lot of the same ingredients as other Israeli food, but prepared quite differently. Some specialties included stuffed cabbage rolls and lamb cooked in a tomato sauce. Finished, of course, with sweets and coffee or tea. I'm not sure if it was Noura or not, but the owner sat down with us, and, speaking through the translation of our guide, told us of the long history of Druze in the region and their general peaceful existence, particularly in Israel. Apparently, in Lebanon, they are less welcome, and often hide their religious identity. There are a couple million Druze in the region, sometimes more integrated into their host societies, but often still living in their own cultural communities. According to Noura, the basics of the religion are kept secret to anyone who is not religious. People choose to become religious, geenerally in their early teens or later in life, and at that point, they can learn about the religion. Very interesting. She mentioned that there are many secular Druze who peacefully and happily co-exist with the religious Druze. On gender issues, Noura said that the women and men are equal in the eyes of the religion, but it is only in practice that it does not always work out that way. Currently, there is a governing council for the Druze who are all men, but there is nothing preventing a woman from being on it. I believe she said that the governing council was only for those Druze in Israel, because of the lack of visibility of the other Druze in the region. This would be a fascinating anthropological study, if it would be possible at all.
The jet lag and long hours have been catching up with our crew. I'd venture to guess that at least half of our group was nodding off in the warn enclosed area with the sun streaming in as our host spoke with us. Also, if it hasn't been mentioned before, this place - Israel in general - is overrun with cats! Truly! They are everywhere. There must have been twenty just roaming around Noura's Kitchen and we have seen them all over Tel Aviv. Shannie said they run the whole country. I'm beginning to believe him.
In the afternoon, we toured Caesarea, a Roman settlement with palace and amphitheatre built by Herod to impress his father as an important port for the Roman empire. I don't remember all of the incredible interpretation from Shannie, but as we sat in the amphitheatre and heard him weave biblical stories as they were current and neighborly, we watched the setting sun over the Mediterranean on a gorgeous evening.
We had exactly 20 minutes to shop at the old Station - HaTachana if we wanted to find gifts to bring home. It was a great little mall, beautiful cafes with outdoor seating, some high fashion stores, and great little shops with wooden games for kids, one entirely of puzzles for kids and adults alive, and a touristy shop called Made in TLV with all manner of kitsch from Tel Aviv. It was a mad dash, but fun. I'd love to return. And it was so close to the hotel, we could make it back in time to get ready for dinner.
Dinner was very cool. Chef Yair Feinberg is famous for importing the Thermomix to Israel, bringing his skills back from France to help define a new, fresh take on Israeli cuisine. It was part cooking demonstration, part dinner and a few of us got to assist. We saw and made a freekeh salad (mmmm), some chicken schwarma (cooked sous vide) with a mango sauce, and lovely desserts like yogurt with fruit purees, haystacks with almonds. During dinner, Israel & Co. had also invited several young entrepreneurs to mix and mingle. I met a few of them, the one with which I spent the most time was a young tech guy writing software to help with social headline defining and sharing. It sounded really interesting, but also sounded like it shared some traits with citation software such as Zotero. I must follow up with him as he had not heard of that piece of software.
As it was the last night in Tel Aviv, I felt I needed to go out once in the hip city that Tel Aviv is known for. It does seem that it doesn't matter what night of the week it was, the bars are hopping, the streets are full of people, and everyone seems to be having a great time. Along Rothschild Boulevard, I believe, we passed the building where the Israeli Declaration of Independence was drawn up and took a photo in front of the monument in front of it.
We went to a couple bars, both of which were pretty cool and interestingly themed or designed. One was set up almost entirely like wide bleachers where there were a few tables on each bleacher. It seemed hip and open and they were advertising concerts. The other, I believe, was called Polaroid, and was very dark and took a long route around the building and then back near the front again just to get to the bar. A fun night with a small group.
This evening as we were about to break for dinner, Gil Galanos shared that he hoped we had had a wonderful first day in Israel. We looked around at one another to verify that it was indeed true that we had only been here one day.
Breakfast was lovely with some of the best cheeses ever - a Bulgarian cheese and an Israel cheese Tzvatit, Maybe - and delicious shakshuka.
And early departure brought us out of the city to Kiryat Gat, a high tech business park where Intel has one of 5 facilities in Israel. Excellent meeting highlighting why Intel is so happy in Israel and how they contribute to the local community. The meeting with Maxine Fassberg was incredible. Just the manner in which she manages a crowd and questions was impressive. The story of Intel becoming an employer for 2% of the country is one used a totem of Israel's high-tech acumen, drive, efficiency, and pride. It was to be echoed over and over again.
Traveled late to an organic farm in the Judean lowlands, Melo HaTene was the name. Due to the rain, we really didn't have much time to explore, but the olive trees at the entry were a fine welcome for me. I think they may have been my first! And the day before harvesting, no less. I made quick friends with the donkeys before we headed inside. At Melo HaTene, they used the old methods for everything, except cold pressing olive oil (apparently, the old method out in the open air is not so good for the quality of the olive oil as it takes on all elements. We saw the large stones (over 300 years old) used to grind the sesame seeds in to tahina, as they call it here, a stone-grinding coffee mill, and tasted delicious fruits and halvah. Mmm.
Rain again inconvenienced us, as we were to have lunch among the vineyards at Bravdo. They quickly relocated us to the kibbutz where the winery was founded, Kibbutz Nashon, shared a full lunch and too much wine. Apparently with both the innovations of drip irrigation and another technology to ensure the fruit is the sweetest and fullest, the winery was a technological marvel that we will see next time!
Our next visit was back in Tel Aviv at the IDC Elevator, an incubator/accelerator for small businesses that was started with the help of IDC, a premiere institution in Israel. The young founder and his team and interns help start-ups in Israel brand themselves, build themselves, and market themselves through a large netowrk of alumni and contacts.
The star of the night was a former HBS professor, Tal Ben-Shahar, discussing his research on psychology and happiness. He is a masterful speaker who held a room of jetlagged delegates in the palm of his hand. His main arguments for why Israel was a successful start-up environment were these: people need psychological safety to know that they can fail and will still survive and even thrive on learning from failure; in-depth study the likes of which most young people are not getting any longer; and general well-being derived from social support networks.
We had a brief reception with DU EMBA students on their immersion trip here (after having been to Turkey) and the team there before heading out.
I and a small contingent wen to dinner at a seemingly unnamed restaurant across from a sushi and sake bar in Neve Tzedek before returning home for a short sleep.
David InterContinental Hotel Tel Aviv at 4:40pm IST in Giv‘atayim, Tel Aviv, Israel.
After Petra, we headed south to Wadi Rum, the dessert. In what was supposed to be a four wheel drive Jeep, but was actually a one wheel drive, we were driven around the dessert by a really funny guide. Our group consisted of us, a Australian guy and 2 Japanese girls, which we called Jackie Chan. The dessert was absolutely beautiful and I might want to update the list of beautiful placed again. In the evening, we enjoyed a Bedouin barbecue, looked for foxes, walked around searching snakes and enjoyed the view on the stars. Sleeping in the dessert was great and then we moved again. After the most useless tours through the village, where random people hopped on and off the car, we arrived in Aqaba. That is not a place for which the list has to be updated. Let's say that the best part of that town was our airvonditioned room with satellite TV and good TV series. Aqaba is probably only fun if you're rich and/or a man. So the next day we crossed the border and got into Israel again. Surprisingly, cause every none of tje questions we were asked, we could answer (so where are you going to stay un israel? - hm we dont know, how much money do you have? - welll, why israel? - well yeah..) Eilat is not so beautiful either, but the campsite was nice, the sea cold and snorkling amazing. Although I might have discovered that I'm claustrophobic ;) And on Tuesday we went to Tel Aviv. Really nice city, a bit budget killing, but good fun and we can buy beer (whoop whoop after 2 weeks in Jordan), we can eat other things than pitabread and the beach parties are good!
- we're pretty much the only ones that we've met that liked Amman
-everything I do gives me so many bruisers and scratches that people start to worry about me.