After a 12 hour flight I finally landed in Israel along with a group of random people, some of whom became good friends in just 10 days. I always told people I was Jewish but I never really knew what that meant. One of the reasons why I wanted to go to Israel was to connect a bit more with my roots (so to speak). I’m not religious and neither is my family, but we try to get together for the major Jewish holidays every year as a way to bring the family together. I did have a Bar Mitzvah and at one point I actually knew had to read Hebrew and speak it at a very basic level. As I became older I slowly started to lose touch with what Judaism was all about and where it came from. I forgot the history and in doing so, forgot a bit of myself and who I am.
I feel that it’s important for everyone to understand who they are and where they came from. I’ve been to several countries around the world but for some reason I’ve never made my way over to Israel, until now…and let me tell you I’m glad I finally did.
I traveled all over the country; I prayed at the wailing wall, rode ATVs near the Lebanon border (and saw the Hezbolah bases), met with tech companies, rode camels in the dessert, went to clubs/bars, swam in the Dead Sea, and did pretty much anything else you could think of. I slept on average of 3-4 hours a night and trust me when I say I did everything I could possibly do to get the most out of my 10 days.
I felt a greater sense of unity and connectedness in Israel which I have never felt anywhere else in the world. People there seem like they actually care about you and want to get to know you. I felt that I could walk up to anyone and act like I’ve known them for years; this is an amazing feeling to have but it’s ironic that I feel this way thousands of miles away from where I call home (San Francisco). I’ve never seen a more proud and passionate group of people that I did in Israel.
I’ll be honest and say that I’m not too good with history (I wish I was) or current politics. As someone who lives in states (and like many of you) I rely on the news and internet for all of information and news. Like you, I hear about what goes on in various parts of the world such as Gaza or the West Bank. It’s one thing to get information from a news source when you are thousands of miles away, it’s quite another thing to actually see what’s going on an area with your own eyes. I’m happy I had the opportunity to do so.
There is so much growth and innovation going on in Israel that it’s beginning to rival Silicone Valley. I learned a lot about the technology and social media scene in Israel and it’s definitely going to be a place to keep an eye on in the next few years (and even now). One of the many things I found interesting in Israel was the incubator/VC model that they use. Unlike the U.S. the government in Israel actually helps sponsor investments in startups and new companies in Israel, something I found to be rather unique and fascinating, you can imagine that this definitely helps spur innovation and new ideas throughout the country.
Overall the trip was absolutely amazing, probably one of the best I have ever been on. Currently I’m trying to see how I can go back to Israel for an extended period of time (with a friend of mine I met on the trip). I want to spend more time with the Israeli tech/startup scene and I want to continue to explore the culture and the region.
I could spend weeks talking about Israel but the important thing is that Israel was a life-changing experience and I can’t wait to go back.