Our first full day in Israel was very busy and full of enlightening experiences. After only about 24 hours here, I am amazed at the versatility of the country. There is a huge focus on development of the next big technology and the future, yet as we toured Jerusalem, we experienced over 2000 years of history that brings together people of all backgrounds, ages and experiences.
After enjoying a huge breakfast spread at the hotel, we headed to Jerusalem Venture Partners, one of the first successful venture capital firms to be established in Israel. We met with associate, Julia Kagan, who shared with us the reasons for and results of rapid growth of the venture capital industry in Israel. Growth began with government inputs which jumpstarted investments and contributed hugely to a culture of entrepreneurship. This meeting set the stage nicely for our trip because the themes of Entrepreneurship, Technology and Innovation were started and developed by this government funding. I was most intrigued by Julia’s comments about the lack of women entrepreneurs in Israel. It seems that propelling women forward in business is a global problem that we must solve.
Our next meeting was with Yessum, a tech transfer office. Yissum is a part of the Hebrew University and serves as a bridge between academia and industry. The company helps those in academics to get their ideas to market and also reveals to academics who may not realize that they have a marketable product that they can make money in industry with their findings. Yessum has secured over 10,100 patents, 800+ licenses and 110+ spin-off companies. In our final meeting of the day, we met with the director of the international MBA program at the Hebrew University who provided us with an in-depth overview of entrepreneurship in Israel; what contributed to it, downfalls and benefits. In all of our conversations today, I noticed that each person discussed the mandatory army involvement as a cause for the entrepreneurship culture and success of Israeli young people. Each leader spoke very highly of their personal experiences in the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces).
We had the opportunity to tour the Old City today as well. We visited the famous Western Wall (the only part of the second temple still standing ), the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (where Jesus was sentenced and crucified), walked Via Dolorsa (the road Jesus took to be crucified) and climbed the stairs to the Upper Room (where the last supper took place). For me, the most beautiful opportunity was seeing so many women praying at the Western Wall. We all prayed indifferent ways, some touched their faces to the wall, some sat praying, some read the Torah and others simply wrote their prayers on papers placed in the wall’s cracks, but I could feel that there was unity and peace.
Thank you for following along as our group from CCEI at UConn visit Israel! Check back for new daily blog posts from each of the 8 students on the trip.
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I am an undergraduate senior at UConn in the Honors Program, majoring in Business Management and minoring in Communication. I serve as the president of the UConn Voices of Freedom Gospel Choir and love representing the university as a tour guide. I plan to own my own business and am excited to lean about innovation, startups and Israeli culture.