Jimmy Zhou, who recently transferred to Olin from Arts & Sciences, wrote this for the Olin Blog.

When I first arrived in Israel, it was a big culture shock. The way people lived was completely different from in the US. The most memorable experience during the trip was the weekend trip to Jerusalem and celebrating Shabbat. I’m not Jewish and have had little interaction with Jewish traditions and culture. I was unfamiliar with the meaning of Shabbat and only thought about how inconvenient it was for everything to be closed for an entire day. My opinion changed after the trip to Jerusalem.

The change first started with our visit to the Western Wall in the hour before the sun went down and Shabbat officially started. It was amazing sight. The wall was packed with people, and the atmosphere was one of a kind with everyone dancing and celebrating. I got the opportunity to join a prayer circle in in front of the wall. At first, I felt out of place as I didn’t know the words or how the prayers went. As time went on, however, I started to feel immersed in the festivities and religion. 

Dinner with an orthodox family

The next part was celebrating Shabbat dinner with an orthodox family. I learned so much about the history and the traditions of Shabbat, like the handwashing ritual that signifies purity. After the visit, I now know a lot more about the meaning and focus of the dinner. At first, I thought it would be a more religiously oriented. I was surprised to learn that the focus is to spend time with friends and family and relax. It made me realize how important it was to not overwork myself and to take breaks.

After that visit, every time Shabbat came around, I would take a break from doing homework and just value the time to spend with friends, whether it’s grabbing food or throwing a frisbee around on the beach.

It is a lesson I will carry with me for the rest of my life, and it’s all because of ISBA. I am so grateful to have been a part of this program and hope everyone gets a similar chance.

The Israel Summer Business Academy (ISBA), launched in 2014, is a collaboration between Olin and the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel. The academy is designed for students of all faiths, beliefs, and academic backgrounds who want to learn about Israeli business firsthand – and immerse themselves in the country’s entrepreneurial environment. Olin Business School sophomore Eli Perlmutter describes his ISBA experience, which he called “the best summer of my life”: 

Participating in ISBA was the one of best decisions I have made in regards to my personal, academic, and professional growth. Looking back on it, I believe I took away four major lessons from my time there: how to live on my own, a new knowledge of Israel, knowledge on venture creation, and a new connection to Israel, my religion, and my school.

It was a completely new style of living to me. We were not in a dorm surrounded by other college students, or under an RA’s supervision. We were placed across the city in apartment buildings with no one constantly watching us. I have to admit that this was a little intimidating at first, but as the summer went on, I realized how amazing of an experience I was having by living this way. Living on our own also allowed us to explore Tel Aviv as much as we wanted, which was every hour of the day that we weren’t asleep. We tried our best to learn the ins and outs of every corner in our neighborhood, finding the best coffee joints, hummus, falafel, shawarma, and Chinese food in a 2-mile radius. Being in Israel also helped me find a new connection to my people and religion. I believe this is something that is only possible when spending time there.

An integral part of the Israel Summer Business Academy experience is learning about the country. Through the Business, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Israel course, living on my own, and partaking in group trips around Israel, I accomplished this. I believe that each experience I had enhanced and built upon every other experience and culminated in a vast knowledge of the country, as well as a new relationship between myself and Israel.

The second course that I took in Israel was about venture creation. This course was taught by Liraz Sharabani, one of the best professors that I have ever had. This course did not give me a million-dollar idea, but more importantly, taught me the process of creating a successful venture. It was a unique class in that groups would present their findings and progress nearly every class. The skills we learned in the venture creation course will not only be applicable to endeavors in entrepreneurship, but every other aspect in business as well. I learned to think on my feet, match demand, find a customer base, and how to determine the most lucrative way to sell a product, among many other important skills.

My trip to Israel also made me realize how amazing of a community Olin creates for its students. I am so happy to have had this experience and can honestly say that it was the best summer of my life.

Guest blogger: Eli Perlmutter, BSBA ’19

The deadline for the Summer 2017 ISBA program is Feb. 15, 2017. Learn more.

The Jewish Federation of St. Louis has selected Steve Malter as one of the recipients of the prestigious 2015 David N. and Roselin Grosberg Young Leadership Award. Malter is associate dean and director for undergraduate programs at Olin. He has been instrumental in the development of the Israel Summer Business Academy and other programs in partnership with schools and businesses in Israel. The award will be presented next month at the annual meeting of the Jewish Federation.



We spent our last weekend of our trip in the Negev, and it was clear that we definitely saved the best for last. Our weekend began with a stop in Be’er Sheva where we visited Ben Gurion University to hear a talk about the history of the school and sustainability. At the school, I heard for the first time the famous words of the former Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. He said the way for Israel to succeed is to make the desert bloom. At first, I didn’t fully conceptualize his words, but after we left the university and drove to visit The Salad Trail, I started to really understand.

Guest Blogger: Emily is a sophomore Wash U

The Salad Trail was an amazing place. We were truly in the middle of the desert, yet there were hundreds of thousands of fruits, vegetables, herbs and other plants growing. We had the opportunity to walk through the gardens and pick and eat the fruit. It was definitely the best farm fresh food I had ever tasted. I was in awe by the fact that less than 50 years ago there was nothing in the spot we were, and now there was a huge farm where over 200,000 people from all over the world visited each year. I saw first hand, Israelis’ ability to take nothing and turn it into something wonderful.

Another highlight of this weekend was visiting Masada and the Dead Sea. While the Dead Sea was an amazing experience, Masada was something I had never heard about before I came to Israel. I had no expectations as I was taking the cable car up to the top of the plateau, and when I reached the top I was stunned. I had never seen anything like it. The beautiful ruins, the advanced technology for the time, the fact that they even had a swimming pool, everything was so cool about the place. I thought it couldn’t get any better until our tour guide started to tell us the stories and history behind the giant rock.

I have never been very into learning about history until my visit to Israel. There is something fascinating about learning history in the place that it actually happened. This trip has been so much more than I ever expected and I never thought I would get this much learning, experience and excitement out of one visit to Israel.

One commonality that I’ve noticed at almost all of our company visits is the philosophy of giving back to their community. On the simplest level, all of the companies strive to support Israel economically, but at Google we were able to see how much action they divert to doing great things for the people of Tel Aviv.

Guest blogger: Jameson is a sophomore at Wash U

They created an entire floor dubbed “Campus: Tel Aviv” that is a free space anyone can use to host events to increase the number of connections and networks that can be made and expanded in the Israeli entrepreneurial world. In addition, Google itself started hosting certain events in this space that they invited people too. The range and target audience of the events showed how much thought they put into their drive to support the community. They established events for women in business that the moms could bring their kids to and showcases for how to integrate technology in the agriculture industry. In addition, they partner with several schools and universities to ensure that the future generations are just as talented and passionate.

I think this fact stems from Israelis’ massive national pride and deep cultural morals. The Israeli business leaders are often times the ones that drove the decisions for big multinational companies to create an R&D center in Israel. Intel is a notable example that we’ve frequently discussed, but I’m sure there are many more similar stories that most people don’t even know about. It is their love for their country that drove their decision making and supporting everything Israeli even if they were working and living in America. Additionally, the principle of tzedakah is wide spread in Judaism religion and beliefs, so this amount of overwhelming support for the rest of the people of Israel is no surprise to me.