The name Israel translates from Hebrew as "he who strives with God," as per the Biblical story where Jacob the patriarch wrestles God. Set in a dynamic region, paradoxically a young nation, yet possessing an ancient history, Israel is a country that has somehow managed to balance the traditions and values of its past with the ingenuity and impetus of the present. Set in the Middle East on the Eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, in the midst of three continents where Asia, Africa and Europe intersect, it’s safe to say few countries polarise opinion or create discussion as much as the “Land of Milk and Honey.” So, what can you expect from an internship in Israel, one of the most influential countries in the world? Read on to find out.
1. Startup Nation
Israel boasts the highest number of startups per capita in the world, with Tel Aviv in particular dubbed the “Startup City” and “Silicon Wadi” by those in the hi-tech industry, both inside and outside Israel. In fact, Israel is consistently ranked as one of the most innovative countries in the world.
Since Judaism is the religion of three-fourths of the population, a religion that is built on the premise of continuously questioning everything, no question is considered out of bounds and this style of learning has arguably affected the way Israelis think. Surprisingly, almost every South Korean household now has a copy of the Jewish Talmud. With nearly one-fourth of Nobel Prize laureates being Jewish, Koreans believe it is due to the Jews study of their holy books. Whatever it may be, the fact is, creativity is overflowing in the vibrant Israeli culture, and for those considering a future as a potential entrepreneur, time spent interning in Israel will certainly set you on the right path by opening up your mind.
2. Opinions - everyone has one!
One of the things that’ll stick out most when you arrive for your internship in Israel is the straight talking nature of the people. There’s a joke in the country that the two phrases you can do without is “please” and “thank you.” It is said that Israelis don’t waste time on formalities and like to cut to the chase. Although Israelis are much more direct in their way of speaking, it doesn’t come from a place of rudeness, but is rather a key part of the forthrightness of society.
People aren’t afraid to tell you what they really think and appreciate the same in return, so don’t be afraid to disagree with your Israeli colleagues; you can be guaranteed they won’t take it personally, because it is a normal part of Israeli business culture. This contrasts starkly with the Western world’s more conservative way of communication, where people often speak only when spoken to, and even then, the truth is often sugar coated.
3. Arguments & Debates
There’s a common rabbinic saying which states, “When two Jews argue, there are three opinions.” In the workplace, and in normal everyday life, it’s not unusual for people to talk passionately and debate aggressively about a topic. One big difference between the Israeli style and the overseas style of disagreements, however, is that people in Israel rarely, if ever, take things personally. People in Israel understand when you disagree about your position on a topic you are not debating the person, but the issue.
Contrasting this with most English speaking countries, people are taught to keep the peace and to be agreeable as much as possible. Where disagreements do ensue overseas, it can be difficult to separate the argument from the person. Israelis are much more open to debate than their peers worldwide, so to the untrained eye, it can seem aggressive; however, in reality it’s part of their culture of being passionate about life.
4. Casual Nature
The majority of workplaces have no formal dress code. Even the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, only recently implemented one. This casual nature is also part of the Israeli business culture. People in Israel are more open to input and look at issues with a solution finding mentality, rather than a problem solving one. This also helps those who intern in Israel, as employers are open to offering interns the type of experience they are looking for, even if the role itself might not quite align with their long terms goals. It’s a case of interns being able to choose their path, which is particularly true for those interning with startups that tend to pull together resources or personnel across disciplines due to their compact nature.
5. Rich Culture, History, & Landscape
Home to important holy sites of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Israel intersects the traditions of three Abrahamic religions. As a result, the nation boasts an exquisite selection of cuisines, with local delicacies ranging from falafel, shawarma, and sabich to kugel, cholent, and gefilte fish. With Jews arriving from all over the world, whether it be Europe, Asia, North America, Oceania, Africa, or South America, the degree of flavours varies greatly from one cuisine to another.
The landscape of the country also sits within four bio-geographical zones: the Mediterranean, steppe, desert, and Africa. This creates a unique topography, yet the size of the country is relatively small, allowing interns to drive from north to south in just six to eight hours. This makes traveling to other places on days off very easy and allows interns to see a lot of the country during weekends and holidays.
6. Neverending Curiosity
One of the best things about interning in Israel is that it automatically makes your résumé stand out from your peers. You’ll likely find yourself in an interview after your internship in Israel with a great talking point that is sure to draw in and engage your interviewer. You will automatically come across as cultured, curious, bold, and intriguing. There are plenty of companies to choose from, such as Microsoft, Google, and IBM, as well as startups, such as Wix, Viber, and Fiverr, or even one that runs a funky application teaching you how to play piano. With unique experience under your belt, you will spark curiosity in all your future job interviews.
7. Unconventionally Friendly
Every Israeli person you meet will want to hear your story of why you’re in Israel, and with formalities being almost non-existent, they’ll soon treat you as a friend. Don’t be surprised if a stranger invites you to a Shabbat dinner after your very first meeting. There’s a saying in Hebrew that goes “Kol Israel Haverim,” which means “all of Israel are friends.” Although this saying originally spoke of Jews looking out for each other, it can be said of all Israelis looking out for everybody in Israel today. You’ll find yourself talking to people in all kinds of places and befriending them in a heartbeat. Israelis might appear prickly, but in reality are softies on the inside. It’s no surprise that Israelis call themselves sabras (cactuses). This unconventional friendliness transcends into Israeli business culture.
There are numerous qualities which make an internship in Israel unique. Whether it’s how small talk consists of loud debates over politics and religion, the “us against the world attitude,” or the the work hard, party hard nature of the people, you can be sure you will return a transformed person and eventually miss the Israeli way of life, the food, the climate, but most of all the people. You can be guaranteed you’ll certainly have some cool stories to tell your friends and family back home too. So what are you waiting for? As they say in Israel “Yalla Balagan!”, which in Israeli slang translates to “Let the party begin!”
This article was contributed by OnlinePianist - a one of a kind animated piano tutorial application which allows users to customize their learning experience. Available on iOS, Android, and desktop devices, learning to play piano has never been easier.