Israel- Start Up Nation

My tour took me to The Israeli Stock Exchange in Tel Aviv and The Center for Israeli Innovation.

Image result for israeli stock exchange

Sorry but I need to use an idiom (all my books on writing frown on this) Here it goes, I was blown away by what I saw and learned there. Tel Aviv is called the Silicon Wadi (wadi is the Arabic word for valley). With a population of just 8 million people, Israel is home to 4000 tech start ups. That number ranks it fourth in world behind the US, Uk, and Canada in new company creation. Of the 5000 largest tech companies in the world, 400 have headquarters in Israel.

I took careful notes on this phenomenon during the center’s powerpoint presentation and have done research since I’ve been home.

Why is Israel such a innovative giant?

  • Talent 47% of people over 25 have a college degree. Hebrew College was founded in 1918 and has a collaboration program with many private companies.
  • Immigration and The Law of Return People from all over the world who are of Jewish descent or have converted to the Judaism are welcomed to be part of the country. Many of those people have degrees in science, technology and engineering.
  • Demographics Unlike Japan whose population is top heavy with elderly people, the bulk of Israel’s population is younger.
  • Venture Capital System In the 1980’s, 800,000 Russian Jewish immigrants flooded Israel. They had skills but couldn’t find jobs. What happened next was problem solving at its best. A system of providing financial capital  to early-stage, high-potential businesses was organized. This was so successful that in 1993 Yozma (Hebrew for “initiative”) was established as a system of “offering attractive tax incentives to foreign venture-capital investments in Israel and promising to double any investment with funds from the government”. And so Israel grew. Since 1980, has it has doubled its population and increased the number of job four times over..
  • High Standard of Living at Affordable Prices The Silicon Wadi in and around Tel Aviv offers a great place to work and live
  • Culture At age 18, all Jewish men must be part of the national military for 32 months,all Jewish woman at that age must serve for two years. In addition to protecting their country, Israeli youth learn how to work in groups toward common goals and to problem solve.They interact with other social classes and have the opportunity to network. Young soldiers with high academic scores work in the special operations division and many of them go on to be hired by tech corporations or able to start their own companies that produce innovative products.
  • Chutzpah defined as supreme self -confidence, nerve, or audacity. I see it as resilience, the bravery to take risks and the strength to go on in the face of failure. Because of my left turn I’ve been given time to research this concept and I’m finding that chutzpah is a strong force in the Jewish identity. It has been built by history and a desire to find meaning. It is the fire of Jewish life.
Image result for innovation Israel

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Israel-Remembering The Holocaust

I was raised in the rural part of Western New York State and never knew any Jewish people. But growing up in the 1950’s and1960’s, my teenage imagination and heart was pierced by the life and death of a Jewish girl named Anne Frank.

During my childhood, the impact of WWII was still very vivid. The Diary of A Young Girl was published in 1952 and the movie, “The Diary of Anne Frank” was released in 1959. History lessons about The Holocaust were of great interest to my fellow high school students and me. Hitler and the terrible things he did were the story we grew up with. It wasn’t a colorful saga like the superheroes fighting on the big screen today. It didn’t offer a happy ending as good guys beat up the bad guys. It didn’t allow us a sigh of relief because the conflict finally ended. The holocaust was real and it was horrible.

I read The Wall by John Hersey when I was nineteen. The author wrote about barriers put up around the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw, Poland during the WWII. These walls kept the Jews of that city confined as they waited to be exterminated.

Because of my Polish roots, I have gone to Poland twice. I visited Schindler’s factory in Krakow and got to see remains of the wall in Warsaw that I had read about.

I visited visit Auschwitz, the Nazi extermination camp. The German words on the prison gates offered a cruel promise, “work sets you free.”

Image result for auschwitz gate

What a horrible place. The Nazi had figured out just how many Jews would generate enough body heat to activate the poisonous chemicals in the gas chambers. In some parts of the camp, I actually smelled the lingering scent of death. I kept it together until I came upon an exhibit filled with the suitcases. I thought of the millions of Jewish victims who carefully packed their belongings thinking they were going to be relocated but were killed instead.

During this 1990’s tour of Poland with my aunt, there was a Jewish man on our tour group named Jack who was a guidance counselor from the midwest. He was a kind person who made a point of asking where everyone was from and taking a genuine interest in who they were. I soon found out that Jack had been a “guest” at Auschwitz. His family was killed there but he was kept alive because he was small and agile and the Nazi used him to light the fuse inside a nearby coal mine. At the end of our tour, I asked Jack what was the most valuable lesson he had learned in his life. He told me it was to always stay positive and to enjoy and cherish every minute of each day. I will write more about the strength that comes Jewish culture in future posts.

I want to close with a warning. We can’t forget this terrible time in history, this extreme time of hate that manifested itself in horrific death and destruction. My memories of The Holocaust have never left me but they were beginning to fade as I, like all of us, have gotten caught up in the stress of our present day world. Society is off balance. We presently live in a high pitched frenzy of gossip and labeling, righteousness and absolutism, bullying and scapegoating, exclusion and discrimination. Anti -semitism and white supremacy are making an appearance again. We all need to stop and look at what we are becoming before it is too late.

Copyright 2019 @ theautonomoustraveler.com All rights reserved.

Tel Aviv, Israel

I’ve never been so excited about going on a trip as I was about going to Israel. Friends on Facebook were looking forward to my posts and pictures but many cautioned me to stay safe and be careful. One friend went as far as asking why I wanted to go to a place “so,so dangerous”.

The morning I was to fly out of Syracuse was a bit foggy and offered a kind of a mystical backdrop that seemed very appropriate for the journey I was beginning. Having checked my bags and gone through customs, I sat near my gate. And even though it was not dawn I gave my own Hindu salutation to the sun.

Having left my home and the North Country and no longer experiencing the stress about what and what not to pack, I was at peace. And with peace comes gratitude. Remembering the words of Rashid, my Islamic guide in India, I gave thanks to the God “who had created us all”. I knew I was very lucky to have this travel opportunity but I worried that my inclusive respect for all religions might get me in trouble with the other members of the tour. The trip was a secular overview of Israel but I knew there would be people of both Christian and Jewish faiths. Would they accept that even though I have a strong commitment to God, I choose to have no affiliation with any religion?

Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv was nothing I expected. It was a cosmopolitan center with a progressive personality. The city recognizes unmarried couples, including gays and lesbians, as family units and grants them discounts for municipal services. It is a place of modern structures along the beachfront of the Mediterranean Sea.

I asked my tour guide if it was safe for me to walk along the board walk after dark. He assured me it was.

As I explored this part of Israel on my first night, the word that kept repeating in my mind was “health”. The city was clean and well cared for. People ran and jogged, biked and skateboarded. There was music and smiles. Everyone was relaxed. It was very safe but beyond that its essence was harmony as people seemed to be living the beauty of the present moment.

I met my fellow tour members. I sensed their desire to learn rather than to judge. I felt very comfortable with all of them. They were nice people.

My first day in Israel was quite a happy experience. I was grateful.

Copyright 2019 @ The Autonomous Traveler All rights reserved.

Israel-The Left Turn

My trip, like my life, was subject to an unexpected twist. If you read my blog in the next few weeks, you will find out all the details of my surprise adventure in Israel.

My trip took an unexpected left turn like the gate at a fort built by The Crusades in the early 1200’s in Caesarea, Israel. Enemy soldiers felt triumphant getting across the moat and breaking down the gate only to find fighters raining down on them from above in the entrance hall. The only way forward was a left turn, a seemingly good alternative offering the sunny illusion of relief. But unfortunately additional troops waited at the turn to kill more of their numbers. There were some, however, who survived by fighting hard, moving fast, and not giving in to defeat.

My trip to Israel took a left turn. But I am a fast moving fighter, not given to defeat. I’m The Autonomous Traveler. I don’t know if my past has made me a skilled wanderer as I tend to get numb under stress and use humor as a way to cope. Or if travel has made me a rugged person by teaching me to be accepting of the unexpected and to see in every situation a lesson to be learned.

I did not have the trip I signed up for but in many ways I got much, much more. Layers and layers of experiences and encounters beyond a tourist’s vacation touched my heart and soul. I wanted to see the real Israel and, maybe, learn something about myself. I got what I wished for. I’m home now and the journey still continues as insights and teachers still make their appearances.

I will explain it all in my blog posts, piece by piece. Be patient, readers, I have much to tell.

Copyright 2019@ The Autonomous Traveler All rights reserved.