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Imperial leads the way on Israel

A student tour of Israeli start-ups and hi-tech centres proved so successful it is being repeated

    Campus debates about Israel can be intense and uncomfortable for Jewish students. But university experience of Israel is not just about political conflict.

    Last spring, a group of 40 students from one of the UK’s leading institutions, Imperial College London, went on a tour to learn about Israel’s hi-tech ingenuity.

    It was so successful that it is being repeated this month.

    It was initiated by the college’s Israeli society and supported by organisations including Dangoor Education and the Alan Howard Foundation.
    Society vice-president Guy Haroush — an Israeli in the fourth and final year of an undergraduate degree in electrical and electronic engineering — said it had raised awareness of Israel’s culture and technology. “It is a high-impact, thoroughly enjoyable way of discovering Israel.”

    Even though places on the five-day trip have been extended to 55 this year, “we were oversubscribed three times”, he reported. “We have 25 different nationalities, from Sri Lankan to Venezuelan, from 23 different disciplines.”

    Most participants have never seen the country before.

    The idea came from members of the society who had heard about a similar initiative in France.

    Last year’s tour group visited leading companies such as Google and Intel, some of the start-ups for which Israel is famed, and intellectual centres of excellence such as the Haifa Technion and the Weizmann Institute.

    “We wanted to show off some excellent institutions,” Mr Haroush said. “But it wasn’t only about technology. We wanted them to learn something about the people and their culture. We took them to the Old City and we did a food tour in Tel Aviv. We also wanted them to see some of the beautiful landscapes.”

    Heavy subsidy is keeping this year’s tour cost at £299 per student.

    Writing in Imperial’s magazine, Felix, 2017 participant Xingchen Zhou said: “It was one of the most colourful weeks of my life”.
    He recalled seeing an old Jewish man and an elderly Christian man chatting over tea in Jerusalem. “This wasn’t the picture I had of Jerusalem but now I could see there was friendship between conflicting religions in this so-called conflict city.”

    Another participant, Theana Johnson, described the tour as “beyond all of my expectations. It wasn’t great, it was phenomenal.”
    And word seems to be spreading. A similar venture is understood to be planned for LSE students.

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