Author: Business in Israel


About Business in Israel

The Business, Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Israel course at Olin Business School provides WUSTL undergraduates an opportunity to understand the interconnectedness between culture, politics and business, and how all three produce a unique and successful business environment in Israel. Students travel to Israel during spring break to learn first-hand about the Israeli business culture. Students in this course are asked to reflect about their in-class takeaways, as well as throughout their immersion trip to Israel.

Sadly, the trip is over and I’m back at school now but with the trip still fresh in my mind, I can’t help but reflect on the amazing places we saw and the people we met. While the whole trip was an incredible experience and I could go on and on about the cool startups we went to, etc, my favorite aspect of the trip was experiencing the Israeli culture, something you really can’t understand or grasp without going to the country. This was embedded in the places we went and the people we met and really stood out for me. You could really sense the determination and creativity, something truly unique to Israel.

Besides the culture, I thoroughly enjoyed going to the startups and listening to their ideas. One of my favorites was Wibbitz, which I know many of my classmates really liked as well. Besides the startups but on the same note, I thought that the Zell program was an incredible idea, and while there may be many similar programs elsewhere, the success of this program is outstanding. The whole entrepreneurial spirit and industry we witnessed has really made me consider what I want to do going forward.

It was also the Zell program and the dinner the night before with many of the current Zell students that made me wonder what the best way to go about education is. With all of the students, they went to the army first, and after the army they went off on their own ventures and involved themselves with that they enjoyed, eventually figuring out what they wanted to do in life. So when it came time for school, they knew what they wanted to do and focused on that. It seemed to be very efficient and a stark contrast to the model we have in America, but not at all saying what we do is bad.

Apart from the business aspect of the trip, it was nice again to the see the sites in Jerusalem and the old city. While I have been to Israel once before to see all of the sights – and most of the places we saw on this trip did overlap with my previous trip – I took away a lot more this time and it was a good refresher of what I had forgotten. I thought it was a good mix of business and history, and it helped to remind us of the contrast between the rich history of the country and the thriving business sector, both of which are pushing and pulling at each other and working to define what Israel is.

Overall, the trip was an incredible experience and there were countless things I took away from it. It really piqued my interest in Israel and I can’t wait for the next time I can go there.

Marc – Class of 2016, Olin Business School – NY

March 15th, 2013

Friday was an extraordinary part of our trip to Israel. It marked a departure from the majority of the trip, which was spent meeting with business leaders and government executives. Instead, we spent the day exploring the Jewish quarter of old Jerusalem. Seeing the historic sites was incredible as many of these locations are the places you learned about in Hebrew School that have been around for thousands of years and have historical significance. One thing that stood out to me was that we were able to see the tomb and statue of King David. I was surprised to learn that King David was the only person with a statue in Jerusalem.

This trip through the old city was also an example of how this class doubled as a history course. I learned about the war of Independence and how the Jordanians at one point controlled all of East Jerusalem. This was knowledge I did not previously have.

Learning more about the history of Jews and of this country had been important to me and it was great I finally had the opportunity to learn about it. This also allows me to better understand the current context of Israel’s disputes with its neighbors. The other thing it was interesting to observe was the level of security in the city.
That night was one of the most exciting parts of the trip for me. We spent Shabbat at the Western Wall. This experience was eye opening for a number of reasons. First, it was amazing to see so many Jews praying outdoors in this single place that wasn’t a temple. Second, I had anticipated the mood at the wall to be very formal, with people focused on their individual prayer. Instead, there was a great deal of chanting and dancing. I found joining in to be a lot of fun and felt that I established a bond with the people there, even those who I didn’t speak to. This communal part of Judaism is something that I find greatly appealing. The one thing that bothered me was that even in our modern times the men’s section of the wall is significantly larger than the women’s and considered more holy.

On the whole, Friday was an extraordinary day that taught me a lot about my religion and allowed me to visit historical sites from thousands of years ago.

Class of 2016
Olin Business School
hometown: New York

Sadly today was our very last day of our wonderful trip to Israel. We spent the day touring the Christian quarter of the old city with Jo leading the way. We walked through the Stations of the Cross and finished at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We walked around the church and observed the beautiful architecture. We also visited a tomb site. We were then given free time to roam around the different markets and have lunch. We all did a little bit of shopping and even managed to pick up little gifts for Dean Malter, Konnie and Jo.

After our brief visit in the old city, we returned to the hotel for last minute packing and a trip debriefing. We all sat in a circle and shared our favorite part of the trip, what we found most interesting and if the trip met our expectations coming in. It was nice to hear everyone’s perspectives after the trip, and how their views of the country’s economy has changed.

We then walked over to the restaurant for dinner. We were given obscene amounts of food and took advantage of our last exposure to Israeli cuisine. We reminisced about our favorite parts of the trip and spoke about the memories we will have forever. We said our goodbyes at the airport, and we are all very much looking forward to our class dinner back in St. Louis!

Alexa, Class of 2016, Olin Business School, Toronto

Yesterday we concluded the business portion of our trip, allowing us to dedicate all of our time today to embrace the historical culture of Israel. We started off on Mount Zion where we visited the thousand-year-old building that houses King David’s tomb. Many of us expected it to be decorated with elaborate details, as many burial sites were honored this way in the past. However the room itself was very plain and the tomb was covered with a modest velvet cloth. We then entered the room directly above Kind David’s tomb where the “Last Supper” took place. This truly demonstrated the beauty of Jerusalem and how it houses holy sites for many religions – this one building holds significant historical value for both the Jewish and Christian faith. Our tour guide, Jo, continued to lead us through the Jewish Quarter in the Old City where we explored the markets hoping to make some good bargains.

Later in the day we experienced the overwhelming presence of the Mahane Yehuda Market, or the Shuk. We were immediately faced with over 250 vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, meat, nuts, spices, and delicious pastries. It was particularly crowded today as hoards of people were busy shopping for their Shabbat dinners before the market closed for the Sabbath. Most of us were excited to finally be able to go to the infamous bakery right next to the Shuk, called Marzipan, where we splurged on half-baked chocolaty rugelach, fresh out of the oven.
We concluded the day by visiting Israel’s holiest site, the Kotel, or the Western Wall. On Friday evenings, the site is packed with people joyfully welcoming the Sabbath. While the men and women retreated to their designated sections, we all partook in the celebration by joining hands in dance and song with other groups of people and soldiers. We finished off by doing what we do best, consuming way too much delicious food for our diner at Spaghettim.

Sarah – Class of 2016, Olin Business School, New York

Today, marked the fifth and final day of meetings with business leaders for our group. We started off the day with a meeting at the large, impressive facilities of the Israel Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor in Jerusalem. There we spoke with officials, including Gabi Bar who is the director of Middle East and North Africa (MENA) trade, and Yair Shiran.
Mr. Bar opened his talk by referring to Israel as being on an “island,” in the midst of their Arab neighbors. He said that three different parties encircle this island. The first is the Palestinian Authority, which is a “captive market,” one which depends on transfer of custom payments that Israel makes monthly, and depend more broadly on Israeli prosperity. The second is the countries with full agreements and diplomatic relations, such as Jordan and Egypt. The final circle is the countries that have no relationship with Israel, many of which boycott Israeli products. We then talked about the QIZ (Qualified Investment Zones) that Isreal has established in Egypt and Jordan.

These QIZs, which allow raw materials to leave Israel, be converted to final goods in Egypt, and then flow through, duty-free to the United States. Bar told us that 180 companies participate in this type of agreement, of the 860 that are eligible. He points this out as evidence that the profitability of the arrangement is key in this situation: during the Arab spring movement in Egypt, all of the businesses continued to operate.

Then, after lunch we spoke with Eldad Taub, a high-tech entrepreneur who has worked with the father of one of the students on our trip. He told us about three ventures that he has worked on. The first, CADENT, replaces the “gloop” that they currently use for dental impressions with a fully digital process. The second, EmBlocker, prevents brain damage during heart bypass surgery. The third, Plan and Act,organizes and mechanizes financial advice.

To round out the day, we spoke with Raphael Nejman who serves as the Chief Operating Officer of Terra Venture Partners. He told us about the ecosystem that Terra has set up, using “TCamp” to invest in the pre-seed stage, Terra Lab Ventures as an incubator for these companies, and then Terra Venture Partners as the VC that structures exits.
Lastly, we had a reception with alumni at the Herzl Museum. The Herzl Museum, located on the grounds of the Mount Herzl (a cemetery for many of the nation’s leaders and military), is a wonderfully interactive museum that walks you through the founder of modern Zionism’s journey to create the State of Israel. We then all had a chance to meet alumni of Washington University who were currently living in Isreal. We’re all now looking forward to spending the rest of the trip sight seeing!

Alex, Class of 2015, Olin Business School, Chicago

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