Sprinting up and down steep dunes with sand blowing into my eyes and 17-year-olds barking orders at me is not normally my idea of a perfect Sunday morning. Neither is transporting stretchers weighed down with 40-pound sandbags along choppy shores or burying half-naked men in sandy slopes for a cruel game of hide-and-go-seek...
But it is certainly an experience I will never regret. And I learned a great deal about Israeli people: that they are relentless and make Americans look lazy.
Our IIP group was at an IDF training called the Yuval Eilom Boot Camp in Herzliya. We were split into teams and challenged to push our physical and mental limits. Having not worked out in what felt like 2305249837698 years since the start of the MBA program, I was apprehensive of giving my full effort – especially in front of the Babson College students who came along with our teams in training (even though one of their students sported high-heeled “sneakers” for the excursion).
But from participating in the “light jog” (on hilly, rocky turf) to being picked up and almost thrown into the Mediterranean Sea (I can’t swim), I experienced a sliver of military life in Israel that made me understand why Israelis succeed in entrepreneurship and business: they operated with a sense of accountability for others, and were taught at a young age (in the military) to make impactful life-or-death decisions. This is something I don’t necessarily see in the cushy bubble that is Champaign-Urbana, but is something I hope to share when I return to the States.
And then we were ushered into a completely different environment – the Israel Museum, where we learned about King Herod and a fateful professor-turned-excavator who dropped to his death next to Herod’s tomb while excavating and renovating Herod’s sarcophagus. Then we were herded to an auditorium where, I swear, is the only time I will ever witness a Q&A session with current President and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres (!!!) preceded by a discussion on “Two Girls and One Cup” and Finnish disco YouTube videos. By this point, I was confused and awed.
Pres. Peres was the most deliberate and purposeful individual I have ever heard speak in Israel, and I learned a great deal about Israel’s prized natural resource: the human mind. The Q&A brought every stray puzzle piece together about the Startup Nation that is Israel. I understood then that then that the nation – and the zealous leadership I saw in its people – was all about survival. In having to build up and maintain a fragile sliver of land, the Israeli people have no other choice but to spend every minute with purpose and sleep when they’re dead.