PresenTense is the social venture incubator where TAMID was founded. We owe our earliest progress to the summer of 2008, when co-founder Eitan Ingall was a PresenTense Fellow in Jerusalem, developing TAMID. Ariel was Eitan’s mentor that summer, guiding him along the basics of launching a nonprofit. TAMID co-founder Sasha Gribov was in Israel too, and together they laid the groundwork for TAMID’s programming today.
When we sat down with Ariel, he humbly listed his many academic degrees, and then went on to discuss current trends in today’s entrepreneurial scene. Ariel is chockfull of entrepreneurial wisdom, and it’s clear that he blends lessons from the world of tech startups into his focus on social ventures. His for-profit sensibilities in a setting that primarily focuses on non-profit development caught our attention– TAMID is a social venture that is inherently intertwined with the world of business.
Given all of his gifts–prolific student, visionary, manager of a high impact organization–his biggest gift of all was clearly the power to motivate. Everyone left the room energized to make a significant impact on society and conquer big problems. I will paraphrase one lesson from Ariel to the best of my memory, and hopefully it will pass along some of the inspiration to my readers.
He referred to thinker Clay Shirky, who highlights two major statistics:
- 200 billions hours: the amount of time Americans spend every year watching TV
- 100 million hours: the amount of time of collective work that it has taken to create Wikipedia
Wikipedia, Ariel reminded us, is a project that revolutionizes world access to knowledge. Never before have there been so few barriers to a high quality collection of information. As the 3rd world improves internet connections, Wikipedia will reach deeper and deeper into communities that could never have imagined being plugged in to such a source of learning. Writing for Wikipedia is an effort that will change lives.
And yet, 2,000x the amount of time spent on Wikipedia is essentially wasted on watching television (though someone needs to write the detailed episode summaries of the latest Modern Family). Trading in a pittance of America’s non-productive time could bear the fruit of another project on the scale of Wikipedia. If we refocus our attention towards such virtuous efforts, how many world problems could we solve?
As I wrote about last week, big thanks to University of Michigan Hillel executive director Michael Brooks for providing each of the TAMID Fellows with a copy of Donna Rosenthal’s book The Israelis. He recommended that we all read the chapter called “Swords into Stock Shares,” which profiles Israeli business culture.
The chapter’s driving point is that, in Israel, business is a great unifier. Despite Israel’s pressure cooker environment of ethnic, religious, and political special interest groups–in business, numbers do the talking.
Alpha Omega Biomedical Engineering is open every day. On Christmas, on Id al-Adha (the Islamic Feast of the Sacrifice), on Yom Kippur. Someone is always around explains Imad, because the staff celebrate different holidays–different Sabbaths, different Christmases and Easters, different New Years. On this day, some forty Muslims and Christan Arabs and Jews on staff are in voting booths. The kaleidoscopic choice of thirty national parties reflects a fragmented society. “Politics and religion, we don’t talk about that,” Imad says with a sigh, reflecting weariness and wariness. “We have conflicts here, but not about that. Our fights are between our marketing and R&D departments. Right now we’re battling against time–getting orders out.”
We’re getting a wide exposure to Israeli diversity here. From soccer with Sudanese immigrants to a Shabbat with an Orthodox community in Jerusalem to the left wing bubble of Northern Tel Aviv–we’re interacting with a cornucopia of perspectives and personalities.
I arrived in Israel last week. I have been spending my time so far with family before I dive into my work with TAMID. Most of the fellows are in Israel by now, and many have started their internships. On Thursday night, we held our kickoff social event, going to a concert in Jerusalem’s Gan Sakher park featuring Rita, David D’or, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, and Hadag Nachash.
As last week was highlighted with Israeli culture, I thought I’d share some thoughts on just that.
Michael Brooks, Executive Director of the University of Michigan Hillel, sent each Fellow from Michigan a book entited The Israelis by Donna Rosenthal. (If you are a TAMID Fellow from Michigan and you did not receive your copy, don’t worry… I will give it to you shortly.)
It’s a fabulous book, and a really thoughtful gift from Michael. It is a long series of slice-of-life profiles of different Israelis, intermixed with the author’s observations on this culture’s fascinating diversity.
The book’s point is perhaps best described by one of the Israelis interviewed by Rosenthal, 27 year old Ori Heffetz. Heffetz says:
There’s so much new about us, you’d think we’re also a billion people, not six million. We’re all the time on TV and front pages, so people think they know us. Unsmiling soldiers. Screaming settlers. Crying mourners. Bearded guys in black hats. Well, Israelis are much more than those photos. We complain about teachers. Worry about exams. Flirt at parties. Wonder if we look good in our bathing suits. We curse at traffic jams and cut in line at the movies. We’ve got normal fears and dreams. Like young people everywhere, we want to find love and be loved. We’re just normal people trying to live in this abnormal, tiny, beautiful country.”
Early on in the book, Rosenthal writes of an incident in which Ori Heffetz is a young man, enjoying a first intimate encounter with his girlfriend. This moment, which is so universaly human, is interrupted by something that at the time was particularly Israeli–Iraqi scud missiles and the rush to put on a gas mask.
Rosenthal paints dramas, rituals, and dreams that are profoundly relatable for all readers, but heightened with an only-in-Israel flavor.
The TAMID Fellowship is not about tourist-trap camel rides or shlocky t-shirts. Our program is about interacting with the real Israel. For these two months, we are living like Israelis and amongst Israelis. It is a new kind of professional experience, a new kind of cultural experience, and a new kind of Jewish experience. I couldn’t say it better than 2011 Fellow Tammy Ellenhorn who wrote in her blog:
I’m hoping this authentic experience will help me move beyond my idealized view of Israel and form a more informed, concrete and adult connection to a country that already means so much to me.
More thoughts on the book coming later this week.
Aside from internships and networking meetings, the TAMID Fellowship program is a great opportunity for students to explore the land of Israel. I wrote a short guide for the group, featuring an Israel bucket list–Israel’s must see places. For anyone who is planning a visit to Israel, I hope this can be a helpful place to start.
- The Old City (Ir Ha’atika) — Walking in the Old City feels like walking into a time machine to thousands of years ago. Only one-third of a square mile, the Old City is jam-packed with holy sites for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Particularly significant to Jews is the Kotel (Western Wall) and Temple Mount.
- City of David/ Hezekia’s Tunnel – Outside the Old City’s Dung Gate, this is an archaeological excavation of King David’s palace. King David was the greatest Israelite King (1000 BCE) and author of Psalms. Continue to Hezekiah’s Tunnel. The Bible tells of an impending siege of Jerusalem, when King Hezekiah ordered the construction of an underground tunnel to bring water in from outside the city. Work teams built the tunnel from each end, meeting at the middle. The precision of the engineering is a historical wonder, and saved the city. Walking through Hezekiah’s Tunnel is a wet experience, so wear water-appropriate shoes.
- The Shuk (Mahane Yehuda Market) – A bustling outdoor marketplace featuring hundreds of small booths with fresh local produce, baked goods, spices, nuts, juices, cheeses, restaurants, and really anything you could imagine. The crowd, the aromas, and the hollers of bargaining are overwhelming and amazing.
- The Israel Museum– A world-class museum featuring fine art and historical artifacts. Special exhibits feature an astounding collection of pieces relevant to Jewish and Zionist history.
- Yad V’shem Museum –Israel’s Holocaust Memorial. Walking through the museum tells the history of the Holocaust, primarily focused on the Jewish experience. Notable memorials include a room with a biography of each Holocaust victim, a room with a memorial flame, and a garden with trees planted in honor of individuals who saved Jews during the Holocaust.
- Ben Yehuda area –Ben Yehuda Street is a pedestrian walkway with lots of touristy shops, great food, and hippies playing bongo drums. A side street at the bottom of Ben Yehuda will take you to the center of Jerusalem’s nightlife—bars like Zollies, Egon, and Mike’s Place are always bumping.
- Hatayelet – The promenade along Tel Aviv’s Mediterranean coastline. Chill on the beach for hours or take a walk down the boardwalk. A long walk can get pretty hot, but there are bars literally on the beach where you can stop and enjoy a drink. Or, of course, you can just hop in the water. The beach has beautiful sunsets at night.
- Dizengoff Street– Tel Aviv is famous for its café culture, and this pedestrian mall has some of the best places to chill with a cup of coffee. Lots of cafes, upscale shops, and a colorful fountain.
- Independence Hall Museum– Visit the site where David Ben Gurion announced Israel’s independence as a state in 1948.
- Palmach Museum– This interactive lightshow museum tells the story of the Palmach—an elite underground group that fought forIsrael’s independence in the 1940s. It’s worth a visit both because the story is crucial to Israel’s history and because the museum’s lightshow design is really awesome.
- Old Jaffa–Jaffa is a historic port neighborhood in south Tel Aviv. It features the Jaffa Clock Tower, the Jaffa Lighthouse, churches, parks, and beautiful views.
- Nachalat Binyamin –A pedestrian mall with an art fair every Tuesday and Friday with some really cool, affordable stuff.
- Ha’namal (the port) –Tel Aviv’s best spot for nightlife. A bunch of old warehouses on the waterfront were converted into nightclubs and restaurants. Clubs here will often have an arbitrarily high age limit (like 23+, it’s kind of weird), so be ready to sweet-talk the bouncers.
- The Dead Sea – At the earth’s lowest elevation point, the Dead Sea is a lake in the Judean Desert with some of the world’s saltiest water. The water is so densely salty that you can literally sit on it. The water is said to have therapeutic value, and many people rub the mud into their skin. Dunking your head underwater or urinating will be a very painful experience.
Ein Gedi – A mountain oasis in the Judean Desert. In the Bible, as the Israelite King Saul was hunting the young future-King David, David sought refuge at Ein Gedi. Today, it is a beautiful hike with waterfalls, desert animals, and breathtaking views. Ein Gedi is very hot in the summertime, so bring plenty of water. Cross the street to visit a Dead Sea beach.
- Masada – A mountain in the Judean Desert with ancient fortresses. In the first century CE, after the Israelites suffered a defeat to the Roman Empire, the Romans moved towards the Israelite outpost at Masada. The Jews on Masada chose to commit a mass suicide rather than subject themselves to captivity in Rome. Either hike very early in the morning or take a cable car up. Masada is very hot in the summertime, so bring plenty of water.
- Eilat – A small beach town with a European feel, on the Red Sea at Israel’s southern tip. A rocky desert hike with amazing views of Egypt and Jordan ends at the beach. There are plenty of places to do water sports. Scuba or snorkeling to see Eilat’s amazing coral reef is a must.
- Hebron– A city deep in the West Bank. The majority of the city is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, and it is unsafe for tourists to wander into these areas. There is, however, a Jewish neighborhood that is heavily protected by the Israeli Army. The residents are religious Jews who want to maintain a Jewish community near Ma’arat Hamachpela—the Cave of the Forefathers. Biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah are buried here. Today, Ma’arat Hamachpela is a building that is both a synagogue and a mosque.
- Kinneret – The Kinneret is a lake in Northern Israel. It is both Israel’s main source of water and a popular leisure destination. The easiest place to visit the Kinneret is a small city called Tiberias. Plenty of young people will camp out on the beach instead of paying for a hotel or hostel.
- Tsfat – A hilly city in northern Israel that has become a center of Kabbala (Jewish mysticism). Tsfat is Israel’s art capital. Highlights include the Mikva (ritual bath) and synagogue of mystical Rabbi “the Ari,” lots of candle shops, quirky vendors, and interesting people.
- Yehudia – I think Yehudia Forest is the most beautiful place in Israel. It’s in the Golan, a region north of the Kinneret. The Yehudiya has a couple of very tough hikes, but the payoff is so sweet—the one I took leads you to a stunning pond and waterfall. Be prepared to get everything wet. Another beautiful (and less difficult) hike in the Golan Heights is Banias.
- Yam L’yam (sea to sea) – A grueling three day hiking trail from the Kinneret to the Mediterranean Sea.
The last time I blogged was in August, with a post titled “Conclusion”. I had just arrived home from ten weeks in Israel on the TAMID fellowship. It was the program’s inaugural summer, and I was one of the five pioneers who turned the dorm-room idea of sponsoring students to intern at Israeli companies into a reality. We all held internships at some really awesome companies in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. And we all had a full immersion into Israel’s business world.
Leaving Israel was a bummer.
In Israel, everything was so fast-paced, adventurous, and entrepreneurial. We were working for amazing companies. I was working for REAL Housing, building environmentally sustainable homes around the country. Jon Hornstein worked in at MobilEye, a automotive-safety company whose products literally save lives. Ally Berman interned at BioLine RX, a pharmaceutical company that develops drugs to treat such ailments as heart attacks, skin lesions, and schizophrenia. Kevin worked with the team at Arba Finance, a merchant banking and venture capital firm that invests in some of Israel’s most innovative technology firms. And Idan was at Thomson Reuters, a large multinational company that provides the information that is crucial for big players in the financial markets, health care services, and scientific research.
We all had such rewarding internships, but that was only part of what made the summer so special. When we weren’t at our internships, we took upon the entrepreneurial endeavor of developing TAMID. We had meetings with some of Israel’s most prominent business leaders. We sought strategic advice from non-profit leaders. We presented at conferences. We shook hands and traded business cards with everyone who would listen. And the reception was remarkable.
And then it was over. Nowhere was a sadder place to be than the Ben Gurion Airpor departure lounge. Sitting amongst the Tel Avivian vacationers shopping at the duty-free, the Yeshiva students enjoying a last taste of kosher fast food, and the high-tech business travelers punching away at their smartphones–how much I love being amongst this medley of people and how much I hate to see it all be over. It felt like a tangible ending. We had all gone, had our “experience,” and it was time to go back home and rejoin the real world.
And then I looked up. One story above, excited faces wheeled their luggage in an opposite direction. The arrival corridor. And it struck me that my departure was not an end, but the beginning of my mission to help new arrivals have the same experience that I just had. America has so many high-achieving students with their eyes set firmly on Wall Street or Silicon Valley. By working on the TAMID Fellowship, I could connect these students with high-level internships at Israeli companies. I could contribute to a stronger generation of American commitment to Israel. I could have a direct impact on tomorrow’s great CEOs, founders, and fund managers–crafting an experience where they will be comfortable their entire lives engaging with Israel, investing in Israel, and opening shop in Israel.
So here we are, at the dawn of summer 2011. It has been an incredible year of growth for TAMID. We speak of “tomorrow’s great CEOS, founders, and fund managers,” but in truth TAMID’s executive board is a group of students who are exemplifying great organizational leadership today. We had a successful transition of leadership this year from previous executive director Brett Siegal to the incoming Ally Berman and Max Heller. Under their helm, our leadership has accomplished amazing things. In 2010-11, TAMID grew to six new campuses, significantly improved our consulting program, revitalized our investment fund, and spread our brand onto the international scene. All this while we were enrolled in a full time load of University courses.
And I will be returning to Israel this summer to direct the Fellowship program. For me it will be two-plus months of program-developing, evangelizing, and relationship-building. And for the amazing group of students who earned their way onto the 2011 TAMID Fellowship, I will help to guide what should be a life-changing experience. Mostly, I hope they will reflect on their 2011 experience and be inspired to pay it forward. Together we will work towards an even better experience for 2012. When I titled my previous post “Conclusion“, boy was I wrong.
After 3 months in Israel, I’m back in Boston. The biggest take-away from my time there? Because of TAMD, my outlook on business and a career is inseparable from my outlook on Israel and the Jewish people.
Thank you TAMID for giving me a superlative opportunity. TAMID gave me the opportunity to reconnect with my Jewish heritage, to hike the terrain of my homeland, to build relationships with Israel’s diverse spectrum of Jews. TAMID gave me the opportunity to build professional skills, to mingle with Israel’s innovators and thought-leaders, to learn about the construction and cleantech industries. But the word opportunity just means a good chance. A situation with high potential for success. We succeeded, but it took work–the work of incredible people who turned the TAMID opportunity into a success story. Thank you to:
- the other TAMID fellows: Ally Berman, Idan Goldbroom, Jon Hornstein and Kevin Zussman. We were the pioneers in a program that will grow and impact generations to come, and that’s something that will stay with us forever. Plus, our friendship made the time so much more fun.
- our founders, Sasha Gribov and Eitan Ingall. Your wild-eyed vision and poised leadership are the foundation of everything we did in Israel–you guys are role models.
- those who coordinated the fellowship experience–Executive Director Brett Siegal and fellowship co-VPs Allie Cooper and Hal Kominsky. You woke up early, went to bed late, and in-between delivered amazing results to get the program off the ground.
- my boss at REAL Housing, Hy Brown. You really took me under your wing, taught me important lessons about life and business, and respected me enough to give me real responsibility.
- the amazing leaders who befriended us–Jon Medved (Vringo), Lisa Barkan (The Jerusalem Challenge), Elie Wurtman (Benchmark Israel), Hod Fleishman (GreenRoad), Aharon Horwitz (PresenTense) Ari Gorlin (Kramer Electronics), Avi Ifergan (Bank Leumi), Yaron Samid (CrowdSpot), Ilan Wagner (The Jewish Agency), and Yosi Taguri (Fiddme). Your wisdom and guidance enriched our experience manifold, and we hope to stay in touch.
Well, the 2010 fellowship program is over and I guess so is this blog. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it and that it’s given you a little slice of how much I enjoyed my time working with TAMID these past few months. The sun has set on the 2010 fellowship program, but the night is young. We’re gearing up for an awesome fall semester of seminars, investing and consulting on campus and we’re starting preparations for an improved program next summer. And what’s left of this past summer’s fellowship program is more than just memories or facebook albums–we’re left with an intimate connection to the land of Israel and a burning obligation to give others that same feeling. L’hitraot.
Another fun week at TAMID and REAL Housing. At REAL Housing, I’m working hard to finish up some of the materials that I’ve been preparing for banks, investors, and clients. It’s been an amazing experience, and I still have another week and a half to work and learn.
On the TAMID side of things, our friend and founder of GreenRoad Hod Fleishman hooked us up with TechAviv, a club of founders of high-tech startups in Israel that meets monthly. We went to one of their meetings and presented TAMID to over 200 Israeli entrepreneurs–and wow were we received well. It’s hard for Israeli businesspeople to resist TAMID’s vision–connecting students on campus in America with businesses in Israel. After the presentation, these amazingly talented individuals were all clamoring to get a word in with us. It’s so nice to see TAMID’s message resonate with Israeli businesspeople.
A special shoutout to Hod for making the connection, Founder of CrowdSpot and organizer of TechAviv Yaron Samid for graciously hosting us, and Yosi Taguri for being a champion. Mr. Taguri presented his company FiddMe, a mobile application that lets people share photos and reviews of food. His pitch was so funny, and he is so clearly passionate about his work. Plus, he is quickly becoming a great friend of TAMID and we’ll be having dinner with him next week in Tel Aviv.
The five fellows were featured in the Jerusalem Post last week! http://www.jpost.com/JewishWorld/JewishNews/Article.aspx?id=181980
Jon and I also had a chance to spend quality time with some students from Harvard here on a summer of study abroad at Hebrew University. Among them was Zander Sebenius, who will be one of the leaders of TAMID@Harvard next year. But a more pleasant surprise, just this summer Zander recruited more buddies from his study abroad program to work on TAMID’s Harvard launch. They were all very excited and more important–raised a lot of great questions and had a lot of great ideas. We’re fast approaching the point where TAMID is nationwide.
Last week we also observed Tisha B’av together. Tisha b’av in Jerusalem is an amazing experience; it’s a day when the Jewish people come together to lament the loss of Temple-era Judaism, and we were in the place where that loss occurred. We went to a panel discussion organized by the Jerusalem Challenge, featuring local leaders. The topic was making Jerusalem a better place, and the whole atmosphere was very forward thinking. Each speaker looked to improve Jerusalem for the next generation.
Then we went to the Western Wall, the actual site of the destroyed Temple. There, the throngs of people mourning with kinot prayers brought us a very different kind of experience–a gut-wrenching connection to the past. These two experiences combined put things in perspective. To paraphrase Aharon Horowitz, one of the panelists who is co-director of PresenTense and a good friend of TAMID: in order for the Jewish people to make progress, we must first engage our national narrative. In other words, embracing a common history will lead us to a happier common future. TAMID is an organization that is all about improving the Jewish future, and a day like Tisha B’av was so important for us to reflect on what exactly that means.