When it comes to Israel’s long-fought battle for the world’s hearts and minds, hold your fire.
The long, often disappointing fight to build bridges between Israel and the world finally has a new twist.
It has nothing to do with political advocacy, nor is it a fight at all. It is a group of people who are all too often the butt of jokes about photocopies and coffee runs.
Let me explain.
Wherever your political allegiances fall, you can acknowledge that some young folks – Jewish or not – are just not that into Israel. And why would they be?
In particular, on college campuses, some students vocally love Israel, some students vocally hate Israel, and most students want nothing to do with all of the hullabaloo.
When there is a demonstration on campus, there is one special group among the many avoiding eye contact with the protestors. Their minds are focused on Wall Street interviews, networking with local business leaders, or perhaps even a dorm room venture. These are ambitious, business-minded students. And they all want one thing: a coveted summer internship.
You see, the CEOs, bankers, and tech titans of tomorrow are today’s internship applicants.
And, in a seemingly sudden new trend, many of them are stumbling upon the realization that Israel is the best place to spend their summer internships.
According to a new study by Stax – a strategic consulting firm focused on growth – the number of students from abroad coming to intern in Israel in 2017 will be nearly 2700 percent higher than it was in 2011. That’s not a typo – this nascent field has grown from a handful of interns to 2,185 in only six years.
And they are distributed widely, with 1,219 host companies across “the startup nation.” Last summer, 34 percent of interns worked at startups, 27 percent worked at large corporations, 24 percent worked at small or medium businesses, 24 percent for social enterprises, and two percent in government.
Meanwhile, from the comfort of campus, business-minded students are working on consulting projects for Israeli companies. In 2011, Stax reports that 56 students worked on consulting projects for Israeli companies. This year, the number will hit 1,406.
What these internships and consulting projects offer – and no bridge-building project ever could – is value.
Students gain the opportunity to work with and learn from the world’s most cutting-edge companies. There is no better place to launch a career than Israel, a legendary hub of innovation and odds-beating economic success.
Meanwhile, Israel benefits from an infusion of brain-power and money.
But there is so much more happening underneath the surface.
TAMID Group is one of the organizations that pioneered this new approach. Not surprisingly, it is an organization founded by students – those same career-hungry types that walk by protesters on their way to a finance midterm or a hackathon. Nine years after its inception, TAMID Group facilitates many of the internships and the majority of the consulting projects mentioned in the Stax report.
I have seen firsthand how an internship in Israel or even a consulting project for an Israeli entrepreneur can change lives. Students from all backgrounds (Stax reports that 13 percent of interns and 55 percent of consultants are not Jewish) are connecting with Israel and falling in love with the country.
When it comes to TAMID’s summer internship program, if 40 hours a week are spent in the office, that leaves 128 hours outside of work to immerse in Israeli life. The program includes sightseeing tours and inspiring speakers. In their spare time, TAMID interns hike, volunteer, play soccer with locals, sunbathe, make new friends, and open their eyes to new ideas.
The impact of the trip can have almost unbelievably far-reaching consequences: Max, a sophomore at TAMID’s Northwestern chapter, led his host company into a contract with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, and ended up spending the following semester building their China office on the ground. Vihar, a student from TAMID’s Washington University chapter, inspired his entire family to come to Israel for a long weekend, just to understand what the fuss was all about. From never having visited Israel before, Vihar’s family now see it as a central focus of their son’s future career.
With the impressive caliber of interns, these leaders of tomorrow are exactly who Israel needs to be engaging. The most common comment I hear from them upon returning from Israel is some variation of the three words “best summer ever.”
For the rest of their lives, they will cherish memories and relationships from their time in Israel. But it’s more than a summer program: the experience of working with Israelis and in Israel will give them an edge in their career search and a foundation of skills to carry them to the upper echelons of their industry of choice. The bridge building does not get much better than that.