Israel. A country of contrasts. A country of youth and antiquity. A country consisting of different cultures while promoting unity. A poor country with a strong economy.

These were our insights after one week of pure Israel. We, that is around thirty students from all over Europe as well as China and Japan, came together to broaden our horizon, invited by the University of Tel Aviv and hosted by its students in a program called International Week. What better way is there to get to know the realms of the Holy Land?

Our home base was Tel Aviv, the «economic capital» of Israel, a vibrant city with an amazing nightlife. The lure of stardom attracts a myriad of beautiful people and everyone of us definitely got to experience this. But this cultural facet was but one of many.

Ecology being the topic of the week, we stopped at a waste disposal site and learnt about innovative ways of recycling like making a toy camera out of an aluminum can. More than being practical, such gadgets try to put the focus on the awareness for ecology issues. That was definitely not the kind of trip you would usually make on an eight-day tour through Israel! By visiting a Jojoba plantation we were shown the importance of this industry for Israel. We respectfully took note that Israel’s Jews (for the company is run by Jews) are the number one worldwide in terms of efficiency of growth and harvest, thanks to an elaborate, one-of-a-kind irrigation system.

To assume that the Israeli people are only made up of Jews is wrong. There are 19 % of Arabs and 5 % of minority groups. As we can read in newspapers almost every day, there is a lasting conflict between Jews and Arabs. We were surprised to find out that there are also Arabs who want to serve their country – Israel this is – on a voluntary basis and that there are, therefore, Arab units. We were told so at the Army Base we saw. Besides standing next to an F-15 we also got the chance to ask questions about current political events and the military service. We soon learnt that men as well as women are proud to be able to give their country something back.

One may think that a country that was founded only a few decades ago and whose main language was relaunched only about a century ago would be in search of its identity. But not at all! Israelis stand together, are proud of their history and their economic achievements.

Trips around Tel Aviv, to Jerusalem, Haifa, the Golan Heights, the Dead Sea, the Negev Desert and to kibbutzim gave us a clear picture of the economic situation in Israel. While there are some poorer regions all over the country, wealth can also be found, for example, in kibbutzim. Also, the whole country has a strong infrastructure that resembles European standards. Especially Tel Aviv, with its modern architecture and strive for «westernness», demonstrates why Israel’s GDP currently ranks number 31 in the world.

All in all, the week was not your typical kind of journey. I think everyone got a whole new point of view of Israel and its hospitable people. Apart from receiving so many new impressions within such a short period of time, we experienced everything in a multi-cultural group which contains yet another dimension and built grounds for exciting discussions.

International Weeks
Die International Weeks werden von zahlreichen miteinander vernetzten Universitäten in über 20 Ländern organisiert. Dabei werden von der organisierenden Universität etwa 25-30 Studenten der Partneruniversitäten aus der ganzen Welt für eine Woche eingeladen. Die Teilnehmer profitieren von einem vielfältigen Programm in der Umgebung der Universität, das meist aus Sightseeing, Firmenbesichtigungen, kulturellen Events, Workshops und Diskussionen besteht. Die Teilnahme an einer International Week ist, abgesehen von der An- und Abreise sowie den Getränken im Ausgang, kostenlos und umfasst Unterkunft, Verpflegung und das Programm. International Weeks gibt es in der ganzen Welt, z. B. in Prag, Tel Aviv, Helsinki, Barcelona, Beijing, Tokyo, Warschau, Lviv, Mailand. Informationen zu den International Weeks und zur Anmeldung findet ihr auf www.myunisg.ch/iw im SIW-Menü rechts unter «International Weeks for HSG Students».