Professor Robert Zenzerović and I have had the opportunity to visit Israel and our Erasmus+ host College of Management Academic Studies (COMAS) in Rishon LeZion, one of the most prestigious and top-ranked higher education institutions in Israel, in June 2016.
All I have previously read, saw, known or thought that I knew about Israel is only a small part of the layered and complex reality. Although during the two weeks I could not have seen and visited all, after coming back I could only conclude that this is a very dynamic, but also traditional, beautiful, but also a country full of contradictions and contrasts. On the one hand Tel Aviv, built on the site where 100 years ago there was only desert sand, the capital of the "start-up nation", the meeting place of all the world's great corporations and those small, but rapidly growing, a Mediterranean city, the city of skyscrapers and expensive boutiques, but also a place where you can still see the old and dilapidated buildings, flea markets and beautiful old city Jaffa. Then Jerusalem, the great city where, at least for the first time, people visit just the old part, but there is so more to see and experience and it leaves you breathless. I was a bit disappointed (long story). Jerusalem is the city where, more than anywhere else, tradition and differences between members of all major religions are emphasized. Finally the desert part, Beer Sheva and Mitzpe Ramon, where communities are strategically developing entrepreneurship and innovation infrastructure (largely thanks to the Israeli army), Hura as a excellent example of social entrepreneurship and the tourist mecca, the Dead Sea, where it is difficult to find a link to our (Adriatic) notion of tourism. Overall, the impressions are layered and I will meditate upon them for a long time. In Tel Aviv we visited dozen of start-ups; I believe our hosts enabled us to see the best creative teams of young people striving to realize their ideas into innovative products or services. Wibbitz made their global business out of a necessity of transforming text into picture and video. Roomer designed web based booking for accommodation where there was no possibility of refund in case of cancellation. Life Happens is app for hotel and travel agencies insurance – a disruption for insurance companies. Nautilus is incubator, financed by the Israeli government, where start-ups such as Splitty (app for hotels), SoundBetter (music, sound), Reactful (reaction in case of outflow of web page visitors), Shoppimon (e-commerce), Spree (online shopping), Rise (webplatform, ecoinnovation + bank) have the entire infrastructure to help them develop their ideas into successful businesses. Windward is very interesting global project, a platform for data gathering and analysis about shipping traffic frauds. Fiver is another big project, called “Amazon for services”, a platform for meeting services offer and demand. Mobile ODT invented and is producing mobile colposcopy devices for early cancer detection of the cervix. My Heritage is a web page and data base about family trees. Fascinating stuff! We also had the opportunity to visit the Hewlett Packard corporative innovation incubator, where employees are encouraged (and rewarded) for innovation. In Jerusalem we were emerged in the dynamic and very active start-up eco system. Siftech is accelerator and coworking space for early stage start-ups, founded with the help of the JVP (Jeruslem Venture Partners), which we also visited. JVP is venture capital fund whose mission is to invest in IT, hi-tech and similar start-ups. Another captivating company is Mobileye, designer and producer of the visual control system for cars, used by more than 10 million of vehicles worldwide. Orcam, a Mobileye sister company, makes devices for transforming the text into a voice, helping visually impaired people to read. Besides the high tech, software and apps, we had the opportunity to visit the Bedouin community of Hura in the Negev desert, where, thanks to the enthusiasm and perseverance of the mothers and a socially aware retired manager, there is a very successful kitchen for the Bedouin children. The kitchen employs Bedouin mothers, who know best what kind of food their children like and need. The company is profitable, the profit serves the community, the women have their jobs, as well as the opportunity to learn Hebrew language. Some of them even managed to get their diplomas out of that project. We have also visited the kibbutz a green oasis and self-sustained settlement in the middle of the Negev desert, with the green farm, solar factory, community kitchen, houses, kinder garden and apparently everything they need. If I would have the opportunity I would like to see more of Israel. There is a lot to learn from them.