Taglit-Birthright Israel launched its first special “Start-Up Nation” group this month after a successful pilot program last year.
The program is named for the popular book “Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle” and included a talk by Saul Singer, one of the book’s authors, visits to various Israeli hi-tech start-ups in Herzliya and Tel Aviv, meetings with Israeli venture capitalists and a trip to IDC Herzliya to sit with students and lecturers in the university’s specialized entrepreneurship program.
During the group’s trip, they were divided into smaller groups and given the task of brainstorming their own start-up ideas and presenting them to venture capitalists. The participants are all either business, entrepreneurial or high tech students or are working in their own developing business.
“Basically, instead of having a normal Birthright trip we’re experiencing all of that but, on top of that, we’re really emphasizing the start-up capital of Israel,” program participant James Goetz told Arutz Sheva.
Goetz noted that Israel “has the highest start-up capital in the world right now so it’s really amazing. Between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, it’s like nowhere else in the world.”
The group’s co-leader, Craig Kramer, said that the program is unique because it allows participants the first-hand experience of meeting successful entrepreneurs.
“They get to pitch their ideas and get direct feedback from people who have been there and done that,” said Kramer. “First-hand experience in Israel lets them bridge the gap much easier.”
Goetz added that the business atmosphere he experienced in Israel actually caused him to consider making aliyah and moving to Israel. This was echoed by Rochelle Latinsky, another participant in the program.
“If I could find a job doing what I do in the start-up world here, I’d move here tomorrow,” she said.
Israelis, Latinsky added, “are not afraid to take no for an answer and just keep trying, and I really appreciate that…The ideas that are coming out of this are so cool and are things we would never have thought about in North America. What’s unique about it is that it’s a global perspective, because they’re looking towards North America to market their product but they’re also trying to make sure that there are jobs for the people who live in this country, and I really appreciate that.”
The Taglit-Birthright Israel Program connects young Jewish people in the Diaspora with the State of Israel and their Jewish identity. This connection is made possible with a free ten-day educational tour of Israel for young Jewish adults between the ages of 18 and 26.
Taglit is a joint project of the Israeli government, Jewish philanthropists and Jewish communities from around the world. Twenty of the world's largest Jewish philanthropists who support the program regard it as a significant part of their investment in the State of Israel and its relations with the Diaspora.
Since its establishment in 2000, Taglit-Birthright Israel has given free, ten-day educational tours to more than 280,000 Jewish people from more than 50 countries. Of this number, about 50,000 were Israelis, including soldiers (mostly from the IDF's elite units) and students. Over the past decade, Taglit-Birthright Israel has contributed over 1.5 billion shekels to the Israeli tourism industry.