A group of St. Ambrose University students and faculty are keenly aware of the complexity of doing business in Israel after an eye-opening two-week visit last month.
The trip included visits to companies that keep business on track while providing safety for employees in case of missile attacks, modern Israeli cities and ancient sites, universities, a Palestinian refugee camp and a showroom displaying the latest in electrical vehicles.
Their time in Israel was flavored by bittersweet memories of professor Mark Brand, who planned the trip before he died Aug. 9, 2011.
The economics trip was the first of what educators hope will become ongoing trips.
“Events that happened 2,000 years ago remain very potent issues today, whether the life of Jesus Christ or the destruction of the temple,” said Ryan Dye, an associate professor and director of the International Education Department.
For graduate student Ian Ross, the trip was his second to Israel. The small country is known for having a very strong economy — and an important part of those businesses is technology-based, he said.
“Probably the biggest thing I took away from this trip is that the people there that we spoke with want peace,” he said, adding those include Jewish individuals, Palestinians and Bedouins who are Arabs belonging to a nomadic tribe.
The group met with representatives from businesses designed to bring about peace between the two sides. Creation of a two-state solution — Israel and Palestine — is very much on people’s minds with recent attempts at peace talks. “Everything there is very complex, everything is very tied together,” Ross said.
Joe Bailey, a senior, went on the trip to get a better grasp of how business is done on an international level. “Mark Brand was a big motivator for me. He said it would open my eyes to other forms of marketing and business,” he said.
Bomb shelters are a cultural norm for Israeli businesses. Buildings are reinforced with steel and thick walls to withstand rocket attacks. “Once a missile is sighted, a siren goes off and employees have 15 seconds to get to the bomb shelter,” Bailey said.
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Myrna Tomlinson, a senior, wanted to learn more about Israel’s growth. The most interesting part of the trip for her was to Better Place, a electric-car infrastructure company that sells versions of Renault’s Fluence electrical sedan. Part of the development includes plans for switching stations, or Renault’s QuickDrop battery switch system, where batteries are changed in a few minutes.
“I think the company has a really good chance to succeed anywhere,” Tomlinson said.
Dye recalls visiting with Brand during the final stages of Brand’s 3 1/2-year battle with cancer. The educator stayed focused on the program and trip and how the trip should be run, even from his hospital bed. “We all considered Mark to be an amazing person, and we did this trip to honor him,” Dye said.
He added, “I think that Mark would have been very pleased that this trip, this program continued without him.”