For those who are unfamiliar, Israel has become a high-tech superpower, producing more start-up companies per capita than any other country in the world. Many have questioned how it is that Israel, with a small population of approximately 7.4 million people, surrounded by hostile nations and in a constant state of war, with no abundance of natural resources, has become so successful? Arguments have been made arguing that it is due to the vast amount of Jewish immigrants who had to start from scratch – a nation of entrepreneurs, so to speak. Others argue that is due to the skills that young people gain through their mandatory time in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Nevertheless, one thing we can all agree on is the culture of innovation that exists in this country.
From medical, military and technological advances, to food and beverage companies (e.g. SodaStream), to peace education and coexistence schools (e.g. Hand in Hand), Israelis have utilized their passion, drive and creativity to establish Israel as an economic powerhouse in the world today. This is also visible in our internships as well, as we are constantly encouraged to express ourselves and come up with new ideas to help our organizations progress. As young people, we can also bring in new perspectives, particularly in terms of using social media and technology.
I began my internship with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) almost a month ago and have had the opportunity to explore this culture of innovation for myself. The first part of my job was to upload a large amount of JCPA videos that explore various aspects of Israel’s security issues, diplomacy and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, to their YouTube channel. I was responsible for writing appropriate descriptions and titles and, in the process, was able to gain insight into the conflict, as well as reading the accompanying articles. It was almost 150 videos, which varied from two minutes long to four hours (okay, so I didn’t go through ALL the video). So it was quite a task, a valuable one nonetheless.
As the video project was wrapping up, I began to work on the JCPA outreach project. The goal of the initiative was to outreach to students visiting Israel on various programs (e.g. Career Israel!) and students studying in Israel that focus on subjects related to the center, and invite them for a briefing at the Jerusalem Center with one of our fellows who are top experts in their field.
However, the outreach program was very disorganized (not even a spreadsheet of the contacts – I was in complete dismay!). Nevertheless, as I began to work through the contacts, the gears in my head started turning. My idea: why not expand this student outreach to have an entire student portal online? The student portal would include a student paper competition, a student conference, and advertisement of JCPA materials, resources and internship opportunities. Furthermore, instead of only doing outreach to organizations, people could fill out a form to register themselves for a briefing with us online – revolutionize the system!
I was hesitant at first in proposing my idea, for as a new intern, I did not want to step over any boundaries. Luckily, most organizations in Israel subscribe to this culture of innovation. I proposed my idea and they were thrilled. Although I am still waiting on it’s approval, I am quite confident that they will go through with it. It was amazing to be part of this culture of innovation, particularly due to my interest in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It was in this culture that I am truly able to utilize and gain new skills.
Looking forward to the rest of my internship!