Israel: Beginning Our Stay in Tel-Aviv

June 30, 2014
by Vance Lopez

Tel-Aviv. Bustling. Energized. Young and old. Humid but begging you to be outdoors, to celebrate the city together.

“Boker tov,” says Mike, one of three of us that share an office space. This week marked the beginning of our summer internships – Jamie at Netafim and I at Driivz, a tech startup working to globally expand its electric vehicle charging station management services. Driivz has put me to work learning about the electric vehicle (EV) market space and researching the market abroad. California is a world leader in EV sales and a driving force of momentum in the nascent industry. Naturally, California attracts a lot of attention from industry players. With its current operations, Driivz continues to gain traction which means that everyone in the small company stays busy. It’s gratifying to contribute to such a hardworking and prospering team. I look forward to developing this relationship in the weeks ahead.

Later for lunch the guys in the office will take me to Hummus Abu Adham. It’s known for its mashausha, a mouthwatering hummus dish served with whole chickpeas, fresh pita and spices. Heavily herb-infused falafel accompanies the dish to make for an unforgettable meal.

The close knit group at Driivz has welcomed me with open arms. Maybe my experience is unique, but this seems to be a common Israeli mannerism. It’s as if everyone is in on the Eastern Mediterranean oasis secret, but instead of holding it close, they share it with the world. Relate it to the mysticism of the start-up nation. It’s about opportunity. It’s also about sharing the intense and sometimes-overwhelmingly rich history. The contrast isn’t lost – innovation sprouting among a place with some of the oldest archeological evidence of human civilization. Israel has the highest number of start-ups per capita in the world. The 2014 Jerusalem Festival of Light perfectly captured this juxtaposition. There is something exhilarating, refreshing, and even humbling about watching modern sound and light technology projected onto a wall first built 3,000 years ago. The history provides the context and the people take care of the rest.

Back in Tel-Aviv, it was only fitting that we opted for shared transportation to and from work using the city’s bike-share program, Tel-o-Fun, known as Green Bikes by locals. The program boasts 1,500 bicycles spread over 150 stations throughout Tel-Aviv-Jaffa, and it has been the cornerstone of our mobility. The program is easy enough to operate – plug in a credit card, buy a weekly pass for unlimited use, and then pick-up and drop-off the bike at a station near your destination at any time. A weekday might go something like: a morning bike to the gym followed by a bike to work, after work a bike to a local watering hole to watch the U.S-Germany World Cup match, and finally a bike home in the evening. Six miles, four city destinations, no motor vehicle involved. Several of the main arteries in Tel-Aviv have popular bike and pedestrian lanes in the center of the street making the commute not unlike a stroll through the park, replete with small coffee shops, shared lounge chairs, and exercise stations.

Like any young enterprise, there are some growing pains with Green Bikes. Give yourself plenty of time when heading to work should there be no bikes available at the first station (or second, or third!), or no empty slot to park at the destination station. In the end, however, the program simply works. I’m grateful to have it and it is a great way to get around Tel-Aviv. San Diego’s upcoming bike share program should similarly be a great addition to the city.

Two weeks ago we left San Diego and hit the ground running in Israel. Already, it has been an incredible immersion experience that has required stepping out of comfort zones and into the space where the greatest learning occurs. And yet, for all the differences – workweeks beginning on Sunday, a late evening culture, chutzpah, and of course the Hebrew language – there are things that transcend time and space, like a healthy captivation with the sea, and finding a comfortable place to relax on a hot Shabbat afternoon. Shalom!