Our last week in Israel was an exciting, yet bittersweet one!
On one hand, it was the last week of my internship at Netafim. Most of my time was spent wrapping up and handing over my assignments in the office. It was also time to say good bye to my colleagues, which is always hard. However, there are so many positive memories associated with my internship - including my bus rides down Dizengoff Street to Derech Hashalom everyday, lively lunch conversations with my colleagues and learning bits of Hebrew and Israeli trivia along the way! I am very happy that I made many new friends this summer. I do hope our paths cross sometime in the future and that we stay in touch.
Our last lecture organized by the Milken Institute was a very informative one as usual, led by Sebastian Weilsiejko, Chief Economist of the Portland Trust. The Portland Trust is a British non-profit whose mission is to promote peace and stability between Israelis and Palestinians through economic development. Sebastian gave us an overview of the economic condition in Palestine and the Trust's initiatives to catalyze economic growth in the country.
Another highlight for this week was the meeting Glenn and I had with Ariel Helperin of Tene Investment Fund in Tel Aviv. I learned that Tene had invested in Netafim some years back, before selling their investment to Permira, a private equity firm that now owns 61% of Netafim. The meeting was very insightful and tied up very well with several aspects of drip irrigation that I learned over the summer while working at Netafim, mainly about making drip irrigation technologies financially viable for farmers worldwide.
The last two weeks were also wonderful in terms of travel in Israel! On August 12, Jia and I finally visited the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. We almost missed the entrance that was meant for tourists and nearly turned away, but finally found it due to Jia's persistence. The mosque is situated in the center of the Temple Mount. It was initially completed in 691 CE at the order of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik. The octagonal structure with its golden dome and blue mosaic façade is beautiful and we felt very lucky to have been able to see it! Over that weekend, we did a day trip to Masada, Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea, organized by Abraham Tours in Jerusalem. From exploring the terrain of Masada under the hot sun to dunking ourselves under one of the refreshing waterfalls at Ein Gedi Nature Reserve to covering ourselves with mud in the Dead Sea, we had a full and fascinating day as tourists!!
On August 19, we went to the City of David in Jerusalem. It is supposed to be the area from where Jerusalem was born. The tour started with very well made 3-D movie which gave us an overview of the area’s history, followed by a guided tour in the area. The highlight was walking for about 25 minutes through the dark and water-filled Hezekiah's Tunnel, a 1,500-foot-long-tunnel created by King Hezekiah in 701 BCE to protect Jerusalem’s water source, the Gihon Spring, from the invading Assyrians.
Our last weekend in Israel was reserved for Eilat at the southernmost tip of the country. Everyone warned us about the heat, but we are adventurous girls! It was also my birthday that weekend and so I was definitely looking forward to the trip! We spent the first evening exploring the nearby beaches and ventured to do a water sport where we got sprayed with the salty waters of the wonderfully blue Red Sea. The next day, I went snorkeling, for the very first time. This was also the first time I swam in a sea! Swimming though the waves alongside coral reefs and schools of fish is an experience that I will always remember as a first time snorkeler! Thereafter, we visited Eilat’s underwater observatory. We would have loved to visit the dolphin reef, but were pressed for time since we had to take our bus back to Tel Aviv.
That marked the end of our adventures in Israel. We just had another day before we flew back on the 24th - me to India and Jia to California - to pack, do last minute shopping and get set to leave.
Our two months in Israel literally whizzed by. However, as one of my colleagues in Netafim said, time goes faster if you enjoy your experience. I fully agree with her statement since I truly spent eight speedy and wonderful weeks in Israel – working and learning at Netafim, being a Global Fellow with the Milken Institute, visiting fascinating places and making friends in a new country!