Ten HAFTR High School students recently participated in an incredible behind-the-scenes eight-day engineering trip across Israel – exploring various startups, engineering facilities, and university labs. The CIJE Journey to the Startup Nation, organized and run by the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education and Go-Inspire,offers extraordinary access for yeshivah students to many technology companies and entrepreneurs. The HAFTR students were part of a delegation of 60 students from yeshivah high schools across the country who joined the mission, led by Mrs. Judy Lebovits, vice president of CIJE. Students on the CIJE trip learn the meaning and history behind the phrase “start-up nation,” not only learning about Israel’s engineering achievements and prestige, but also observing and interacting with the technology.
Jason Curry, President of CIJE, has championed the importance of STEM education for Jewish day schools in the United States and its connection to Israel’s Silicon Valley. “This trip is not only fun, but has some important foundations. Israel is a beacon of STEM leadership to the rest of the world. It is important that our students bridge the gap to create an innovative work environment between both our homes. It also gives an opportunity to have our future generations renew a sense of love for Israel.”
Among the places we visited were Mobileye, Technion, SodaStream, Netafim, Mazor Robotics, the Ashkelon desalination plant, and Rambam Hospital. Each company/venue offered insight into different branches of engineering, allowing students to discover the many innovative and futuristic applications of technology. Many of the lecturers offered their contact information to the group, encouraging us to reach out to them if we had any questions, ideas, or just simply wanted to keep in touch. A common theme in our interactions with them was that ideas for innovation can materialize under our initiative and effort. They emphasized that our age does not prevent us from being proactive with our ideas. Unbelievably, many of the entrepreneurs who spoke to us founded their first company in their teenage years.
It became routine to hear the words “bought out” and “billions of dollars” in the same sentence when we visited these companies. We were astounded that such a small country can engineer so many products used to augment human progress and save lives. Amazingly, most of the companies and labs we visited were introduced in order to solve a human problem – the money only came afterwards.
Many students gained a newfound love for the land of Israel. While many of us had been to Israel and its religious sites before, the vast majority had never visited the engineering facilities and technology enterprises. This trip enabled us to not only appreciate the history of Israel and its religious significance, but to also recognize the beauty of Israel in a completely different way – through the engineering sector.
By Jeffrey Wolberg, Junior