An Unexpected Week in Israel


This story comes to us from Jayne Ronayne, CEO/Co Founder KonnectAgain, an alumni relations software tool that helps organizations create and sustain a community of their alumni. Jayne recently returned from REALITY Tech, an immerisve Israel journey for innovators and entrepreneurs. It originally appeared on Jayne's personal blog.

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2016 was to visit a minimum of two new places that I had never been before and these places had to be somewhere that were not the typical ‘holiday’. As a startup founder, holidays are something that don’t take priority, so I always look at mixing time off with a strategy of furthering my network and to learn new things along the way!

I was already fortunate to join Plan Ireland in May with a group of incredible people to travel to Ghana, which was life changing. This July I had the opportunity to do something I had never done before; myself along with 49 other strangers from all over the world travelled to Israel for a week.

This was a trip that is organized and sponsored by the Schusterman Foundation, which is led by Lynn Schusterman, who is truly an inspiration.

I didn’t quite know what to expect as I didn’t know much about Israel in terms of their culture and renowned history, but I just felt like this was a trip not to be missed.

I was fortunate that I didn’t have a huge knowledge of Israel before, as it limited my expectations. I arrived on a Sunday morning and from the minute I touched down in Israel I was greeted by beautiful weather, friendly people and food that you could never get tired of.

Most memorable breakfast

On day one I, along with a few others, travelled to the airport to meet the rest of the group who flew in mainly from both the West and East coast of the States. Even after a lengthy flight to Israel, everyone still arrived with smiles on their faces and eagerness to meet everyone! From here, we were whisked off to start the adventure that took us into the middle of nowhere, greeted by a flock of sheep.

At first I had assumed that we were in the wrong place, but there was certainly no mistake. We were quickly divided up into two teams and told to await further instruction regarding the sheep that were staring blankly at us.

One of the leaders then explained how herding sheep can teach us a lot about leadership and highlight the type of character you are when trying to lead a group. In this case, we were leading the flock of sheep. Twenty minutes later, fifteen strangers had to combine together to direct sheep and goats around an obstacle course. This set the tone for the week.

Each day was designed for us to learn something new, experience something unique, taste food like never before, and to have an opportunity to think differently. This ranged from physically building boats to sharing stories that represented life changing moments in our lives that have led us to where we are today.

Team bonding!

On the third day, we travelled to the Syrian border on quad bikes, learned in great detail the challenges of Syria and its borders, visited and stayed in a Kibbutz, and really understood how communities work together.

The trip begins to the Syrian border 

The 50 people that were on this trip were leaders in their own right. Whether they are founders, investors, or entrepreneurs, it all involved a form of leadership. I felt as though this week was a breath of fresh air as it gave us an opportunity to not lead, but to be a part of something and to learn from one another.

We had the opportunity to meet with the Jerusalem mayor who was both inspiring and exciting to listen to and to hear his enthusiasm for the future of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was one of my favorite places that we spent time in as the people and surroundings were special and everywhere we went always told a story.

But of course, being a startup, having the opportunity to learn and meet with startup founders from Israel was really interesting. I admire their determination and relentless attitude in creating a valuable business.

1 startup for every 2000 people!

It was a memorable week, but what made it the most memorable and life impacting was the people on this trip. The team behind this trip is truly incredible and the work and effort they made was remarkable. They managed to bring together 50 strangers from around the world, who were strangers on day one, and build close friendships, learning from one another by day seven.

Quick dip in the Dead Sea

It’s one of the most invaluable networks I’ve been fortunate to be a part of. Israel is somewhere that I would previously not have had on my top ten places to visit, but it is now on my top ten places to return.

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.