Experience Israel

Israel Tech Challenge: The Experience of Akiva Futter

"I feel like a better person in Israel, I’m happier here and even more sure of myself.”

Akiva, 22, is surprisingly direct when he talks about what Israel can offer in terms of hi-tech to young Jews from around the world in general and North America in particular.

Recently he was in Israel between semesters - he is studying computers at a well-respected university in the United States. He first began experiencing the practical application of computers a few years ago when he partook in the Israel Tech Challenge.

The Israel Tech Challenge, which was created by The Jewish Agency for Israel in partnership with the National Cyber Bureau of Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office, brings over a hundred gifted Jewish students from around the world in the computer science fields to Israel for one of three tech experiences. First is the Tech Challenge Experience, a 12-day program during which participants gain an insider’s look at the Israeli hi-tech sector, including hands-on software development and meetings with industry leaders. Second, Tech Interns (in cooperation with Onward Israel) allows students to spend their summer in Israel experiencing Israel’s hi-tech society firsthand through internships. FInally, each year a few select computer whizzes join Tech Fellows, a 10-month program in cooperation with Masa Israel Journey that focuses on theoretical computer studies, Hebrew language, honing professional plans and skills, training, best practices, and internships. The Israel Tech Challenge initiative aims to build professional leadership, convene Israeli entrepreneurs and tech gurus, and build a global alumni network to advance collaboration between Jewish innovators abroad and the Start-Up Nation.

Akiva is a nice boy from Teaneck, N.J., in his fourth year of computer studies.

"This semester is the shortest one during my undergraduate studies, so I came to Israel to work and gain experience,” he explains. “I came during the semester break.”

He isn’t the only young Jew who comes to Israel to work with Israeli hi-tech and start-up companies.

Since the publication of authors Dan Senor and Saul Singer’s 2009 book titled “Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle”, a spotlight has been placed on Israel’s phenomenal hi-tech and start-up industry that has been taking place for several years.

Tom Brokaw, special correspondent for NBC News, was inspired to say the following about the book; "There is a great deal for America to learn from the very impressive Israeli entrepreneurial model — beginning with a culture of leadership and risk management. Start-Up Nation is a playbook for every CEO who wants to develop the next generation of corporate leaders."

Perhaps this is the reason that more and more young people like Akiva are coming to Israel.

ISRAEL TECH CHALLENGE

Akiva always knew that the field of technology was his calling. His father works in the United States’ hi-tech industry and once told him, "Look at the list of subjects available at university and decide which one you think is an area where you can contribute if you want to immigrate to Israel."

So, does Akiva want to make Aliyah (immigrate to Israel)?

“Yes, certainly, and I’ve begun learning in the field of computers,” he answers enthusiastically. "In between semesters of studying in the U.S., I come to Israel to learn specialized computer studies. I’m already thinking about what will happen when I complete my undergraduate degree in natural sciences."

Several years ago, Akiva heard about Israel Tech Challenge and a fire was lit.

"I heard about the project from a friend and I came to see for myself,” he says. “At first I didn’t believe that such a thing existed until I actually visited and saw the program with my own eyes. I got to interview with Israel Tech Challenge. I told them about myself and I was accepted into a tract that allows me to specialize in hi-tech professions in Israel through the project.”

A SPECIALIZED PROGRAM

What makes the project so attractive to Akiva and many other young Jews around the world?

"The program they planned for me emphasizes an exposure to hi-tech in Israel,” Akiva says. “There were a few options. One was a boot camp that teaches people not familiar with the field to engage in hi-tech. Of course they teach about Israeli hi-tech companies. The second option was an internship specializing in natural sciences for undergraduate students. The last option was where Fellows are taught advance courses for natural sciences graduates."

Akiva began his specialization work during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in the summer of 2014, which served as an opportunity to experience the occasional tense periods that take place in Israel, and to help the Israeli economy during a very complex time.

"I took quite a few steps to make Aliyah to Israel and I became very connected to the program and to the State of Israel," he shares.

A BETTER MAN IN ISRAEL

The conversation with Akiva naturally flows into speaking about his decision to tie his fate to Israel’s hi-tech industry, and to Israel, as an immigrant and an ordinary citizen.

He offers two different answers for why he is choosing to make Aliyah.

"I feel like a better person in Israel, I’m happier and even more sure of myself here,” he says for his first answer. “The U.S., for Jews, is a bubble, while Israel isn’t a bubble but a place to realize Jewish identity. I live here and experience a situation where there is no difference between Jews. I want to continue to grow and raise a Jewish family here."

The second reason, Akiva concludes, is that "the opportunities that I received through Israel Tech Challenge taught me that in Israel there are many possibilities and the development of many fields of technology.”

08 Jun 2016 / 2 Sivan 5776 0
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