Linda's Email From Israel: Four Intense Days

Technion Mission - Chaverim - Linda's Email Diary - Shabbat in Jerusalem - Steve's Larger Trip
Linda's Email From Israel: Arrival - Day One - Day Two - Day Three - Day Four - Epilogue/Reflections

In February 2005, my husband Alan (Allie) and I made our first trip to Israel on a Jewish Federation mission. Allie and I went on this mission to "get a monkey off our back" given that we have spent most of our adult lives apologizing for not ever having been to Israel even though we have traveled extensively. What we discovered almost the moment we arrived in Israel is that we were indeed at home in a land that belonged to us as Jews and for which our pride and love was boundless. Our mission was unforgettable and magical.

When I received a call almost seven months later from my cousin Bobby Roberman inviting me to join him on a trip to Israel in November 2005, I barely heard the rest of what he said (i.e. the portion explaining that Jon Hirshtick was underwriting this trip to expose people interested in business and technology to Technion University). I asked no questions of Bobby - not the itinerary, expectations re contributions, participants on the mission - nothing. I simply said "let me talk to Allie, but I am sure that the answer will be yes". Bobby's invitation made me feel that I was destined to return to the country and people that had touched me so deeply and to whom I feel that I owe a great responsibility. I am still in the process of determining how to fulfill that responsibility and commitment, but my wonderous days on the Jon Hirshtick Israel mission most surely will help shape my decisions. The "fever" that my husband and I caught when we were so blessed to visit Israel for the first time in February only intensified on this trip.

Because of this fever, I found that sharing my trip with my family and friends through a daily email (blackberry) journal was a form of release. Actually, the responses I received from them made me realize that some of the most amazing experiences I was having were real. Through their excitement and awe, my trip was enhanced even more (as if that were possible). My daily journal follows. It was created most often with exhausted thumbs and bleary/tired eyes, but with much love and gratitude for this experience.

Linda Chaplik Harris

Arrival: 6 November 2005

I just arrived in Jerusalem and am checking into hotel. Hotel is gorgeous (David Citadel). My baggage is lost and hopefully will arrive tomorrow. I made my connection at Heathrow but it was a miracle. Two hour line to leave Terminal 3 where I arrived, and two hour line to pass thru security at Terminal 4 where I was catching plane to Tel Aviv. I just walked to front of lines. It took such chutzpah, but no one questioned me (I only had 1.5 hrs to transfer and my plane from Chicago was a little late). So my luggage never made it.

I am back in "Eratz Yisraeal". The group is all male and I don't know anyone other than Bobby Roberman who is so sweet. I think this trip will be very interesting but I am really the only non techie person, I think. It means that conversations will be exhausting, but I'm up for it. Anyways, I surely will be seeing things I've never seen before. At least these men will recognize me tomorrow. I'll be the one with the same clothes on (Susie, don't panic; I did carry my make-up on the plane in case this happened). We go to dinner now.

I am in Jerusalem. I can't believe it. I am so at home even though I am largely with strangers . . . . .

As most of you know, I am on a mission in Israel to learn about/support Technion University, Israel's MIT. The man who sponsored and paid for the trip is Jon Hirshtick, an MIT PhD who founded Solidworks, a CAD CAM software company that brought CAD CAM software to the masses on Windows NT. Jon sold his company a few years ago to a French public company conglomerate for hundreds of millions of dollars. He's the most down to earth guy ever! Also on the trip is Steve, another MIT PhD working at Sun. They both were part of the MIT casino team that recently was the subject of a documentary on the History Channel. I hope to find out more later, but one or both of them must have made a fortune by using their mathematical genius. Anyways, these guys and most of the group love to talk technology and about what Israel is doing with it at Technion. Some are fearful that India and China will take the place of Israeli engineers. But in the meantime, I can't help but think that I am with clones of my dear friend, Scott Mermel, and am so sure that Scott (and Susie) would love this group. More to follow. I am so tired. Sweet dreams. (Scott, Allie will email to you my itinerary. I don't mean to speak for your philanthropy, but you would love this so much! It is everything you care about and do. My love to Eve.)

Day One: 7 November 2005

I have just returned to the hotel after our "first" 24 hrs in Israel. We started the day at 8 a.m. with a lecture from Reuven Hazan, one of Hebrew University's most renown political scientists and a major commentator for Israel on NPR, etc. There are 8 of us on this trip and the sessions we have with speakers are small conference room conversations - not lectures. It is after midnight. To say that I have just experienced one of the most awesome days ever is an understatement.

For starters, this group is being led by a man who is well known and incredibly highly respected in the technology world. His success story is the stuff legends are made of - the real American dream. Jon formed a start-up software company that did 3D modeling for engineers to be used in product design. The company, Solidworks, was based on the software he invented that could be sold at affordable prices to all types of companies - not just the huge giants like Toyota, Boeing, etc. And Jon learned about Technion University before his great success when he went on a mission to Israel that someone invited him to attend. When he achieved his financial success by selling his company, he dedicated himself to supporting Israel's tech industry as a means to support the health (both economic and militarily) of Israel and Jon believes that nothing accomplishes this goal more than supporting the work of Technion University - Israel's MIT. Jon is a Chicago native. I actually know his sister who is a lawyer in Chicago. Jon's cousins are the Hirschticks who grew up in Lincolnwood with my family (what a small world!). Steve Hirschtick is now married living in Thailand with two wives and 18 children. That should get an award at a Niles West reunion! Jon now lives in Boston. Also on the trip is Steve Heller, an MIT PhD who runs Sun Microsystems's research lab. He, like Jon, is so down to earth and a total genius. And so incredibly nice. This is his first trip to Israel. His father is a holocaust survivor.

There are three men on the trip who are involved with Solidworks and Bobby Roberman is one of them. Another, Paul, was born in Czech but now lives in Australia. He is a Solidworks distributor and is a quiet man with profound insight and intelligence. He is observant, calm and delightful. His mother was a Holocaust survivor. The third, Ken, is Bobby Roberman's dear friend and lives in Paris where he heads up Solidworks' European sales. Ken has great style, speaks lovingly of his wife and has a truly wonderful curiosity and "love of life". Then there are two other men - Joel and Scott - and me. Joel heads up the New England Chapter of American Friends of Technion and Scott is his dear friend. Joel was instrumental in planning this trip and has incredible passion for Israel and Technion. He served as our Israeli "encyclopedia" and historian. His friend, Scott, was experiencing Israel for the first time since three trips he took almost thirty years ago in the 1970s. He is a businessman from Cape Cod and seeing Israel for the first time through his eyes reminded me of the awe I felt upon first coming here in February. All of these men are really smart, interesting and so thoughtful. Tomorrow we will be joined by another tech genius, Leonid, who is a Russian immigrant to the U.S. living in Boston. Leonid could not join us when the trip started because of a schedule conflict - he is being honored by the Governor of Massachusetts for his work in contributing to the economy of the State of Massachusetts. He, too, is a software developer/inventor.

I don't have words to describe the mental stimulation I have experienced today and they say tomorrow will be even better. The political scientist was amazing (e.g. disengagement from Gaza had nothing to do with the what the Palestinians want but everything to do with the fact that for the first time Jews represent less than 50% of population if you count occupied territory). He claims that Israel can never be one state with occupied lands because then it would either (A) not be a Jewish state or (B) not be democratic state - and both are critically important. A two state solution is imperative although Hamas is smart and is beginning to say "let's have one state" knowing that Arabs out number Jews in the whole area. There is a serious risk that Hamas - a terrorist organization - will prevail in "democratic" elections. What irony! The professor also spoke about a new Centrist majority in Israel - neither right nor left - who backs Sharon. But he said that the Likud government may fall apart today if Sharon can't get his proposed appointment of two ministers approved by his own Likud party. All of this is so fascinating.

Then we went to the new museum at Yad Vashem. I cannot say how amazing it was and so different than the old one. The architecture of the building was extraordinary. It is more like the one in DC, yet very different. The experience, not surprisingly, was extremely moving.

Then we went to the Knesset and met with one of the highest ranking Labor party members, Haim Ramon. He is Sharon's Minister in charge of all civil dealings with the Palestinians and occupied lands. He was incredible. He squeezed us into a very historic day - a day in which he did not know what would happen on the vote re Sharon's proposed ministers and whether Israel's political parties, as we know them, will survive. He spoke of his view of the "fence", the ultimate need for a "second" disengagement from the West Bank and the need for peace with Palestinians. Once again, we just sat around a conference table and had a discussion. It was access to a man whose mind and skills are determining the fate of the world's greatest conflict. What more significant historic event is going on? His hand is on the pulse of the world's most complex and important problem. And he spent 45 minutes with us sharing his aspirations and dreams for his children and Israel. Though he was most optimistic, he noted that the only natural resource that Israel really has is the high tech brains of its scientists and engineers and, regrettably, half of them are choosing to work outside of Israel. He hopes that if the economy improves, more of them will stay in Israel.

Then the day turned high tech as we went to visit a venture backed company, Proficiency, that is on its 4th round of VC financing (mostly from America) and met the founder and marketing chief. These guys viewed Jon as Jesus - and they spoke about technology in Israel. They have developed software that translates one type of computer design software to another. The techies in our group absolutely loved this session and I did too as it is the kind of company I often represent or have clients invest in. It was all very familiar even though I had no clue as to how the software really works. (Randy, you would have loved this.)

We then went to the Wall for personal prayer and meditation. And, then we were off to dinner. We followed dinner with a visit back to the old city for a 1.5 hour walk through old Jerusalem neighborhoods with our guide. We adore our guide, Gilad. I think that it was the most eerie and truly awe inspiring evening. It had stopped raining, streets were dark, empty, misty and so filled with history and faith. It was surreal. We stood on one passageway and reached out our arms - one hand touched a Jewish home and the other touched an Arab home. We understood graphically the difficulty in trying to split Jerusalem. And to cap off the evening, we stood on a rooftop/hill and sang, arm in arm, "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav".

The good news is that my "lost" bag was waiting for me in my hotel room when I returned (and I was so happy to see Duffy II).

(Mom, please call Jan and tell her that Bobby is adored by every person on this trip. He is perhaps the sweetest person in the world (next to my Allie) and everyone who knows him adores him. His coworkers keep taking me aside to say how amazing he is - not just in business but as a friend and colleague. It is simply wonderful. And he is taking care of me and so very thoughtful. He talks about Jan and Sam all the time with such love. Gail is a very lucky woman.)

This trip is geared to demonstrate why Technion is so important to Israel in that technology education will create jobs and provide military superiority. At dinners we have been joined by Jon's Israeli buddies from MIT who are either successful engineers in industry here or professors doing research. I can only say how humbled I am to be part of this group and these minds - though I am having a ball and, candidly, adding a little "emotive" element to the trip. I have come to the conclusion that women do that better than men.

When Allie and I were here in February, I couldn't help but be so proud of the "Yiddesha Kup" which shows itself in everything that Israel does. I have a feeling that this trip will prove that even more. Tomorrow, we go to visit the Israeli aerospace industry and maybe return to the Knesset and lots more.

I am so grateful and blessed to have this experience. (Thank you Allie, love.) And to all of you who read this, I say Shalom and I love you. We have so much to be proud of as Jews. This land is ours, too, and it makes my heart burst with pride to be here and belong. I have expanded my email list in the hopes that each recipient will share some of the excitement I am feeling. I won't keep the list this long for future emails.

Love me.

Day 2: 8 November 2005

James Bond anyone? We are on the bus having just left Israeli Aircraft Industries - a corporation owned by the government but which operates like a private company. IAI makes the Arrow antiballistic missile, satellites and launching pads, the Gulf Stream executive jets, as well as providing avionics for jet fighters (which they used to manufacture but now retrofit for U.S., Israeli and Russian jet fighters and helicopters (which we also saw). The company also retrofits passenger planes into cargo planes and we saw all of that.

I'm now back on bus after having visited the Israeli army's tank museum/memorial. A big screen in a memorial hall flashes the picture, name, parents' name and background of each infantry soldier who died defending Israel from 1948 to present. This is done for each of over 4,000 soldiers on the yortzit (anniversary of death) of every Israeli soldier. In the screen, shadowing each soldier's photo, is a lit yortzit candle. So moving.

In the same compound is a mad scientist who was amazing (Dr. Yossi Leshem). He is a zoologist who loves birds. He approached the Israeli Air Force many years ago to suggest that he study plane crashes/accidents due to birds flying into planes. Israel has the largest bird migration paths of any country during 8 months per year (per square foot) and more planes per sq. ft. than any other country. He developed software using old Russian radar equipment that he rebuilt and now advises the Air Force every 10 minutes where planes should not fly because of birds. This may not sound interesting, but accidents have been reduced 75% and hundreds of millions of dollars have been saved - not to mention the savings of human lives when accidents are fatal. This scientist was identical in looks and personality to the scientist in "Back to the Future". It was truly fabulous.

I find it amazing that I am so enmeshed in aircraft and airline industries given my family history of devastation and tragedy in this area. I am thinking of my father every moment that I am here. If he were on this trip with me, I know that he would share the dedication to furthering the aspirations of Israeli security and economic stability through technology. Everything I am seeing are elements of his very being - Jewishness, creativity, brains, commitment to business, loyalty to his people and the absolute thrill of invention. I wonder if he would have wanted to make Aliyah with my mother. Who knows. I just can't help wondering how he would feel about all of this. It makes me feel so wonderful just thinking about it.

We are on our way to the Executive Management Program for Technion. Will continue later . . . . . .

The Management Program seemed to be an advanced management training program for Israeli global companies who have great technology platforms but not good managers. It seems that Israelis, broadly speaking, are not good managers (perhaps due to military training). This is obviously an important topic, but the presentation was just fair.

We then went for a quick (and delicious) dinner at a falafel stand because we had an exciting change in plans. We learned that Netanyahu was willing to meet with us at 7:30 p.m. After being Sharon's Finance minister, he resigned because the Gaza disengagement gave nothing to Israel as a quid pro quo. And in resigning, he may bring down the government. We sat and dialogued with him for nearly 2 hours about economic reform, security, pension reform, breaking the unions and more. Many of us felt ourselves sway to the right after talking to him and ended, unfortunately, on his view of the Iraq war; it was probably a mistake to go in to Iraq, but there's no way to leave without creating something far worse and Israel counts on U.S. as an ally to see things through in Iraq so that it doesn't become another Iran. (Good luck! I wouldn't want to count on the back bone of the U.S.) We were all so pumped that Netanyahu spent so much time with us. He may be the next prime minister.

Now we are in Haifa. We arrived at midnight and I am on a conference call with my office. I am so tired. Haifa at night looks like Cannes. The room is fair (Dan Carmel) but the view is gorgeous. Tomorrow is a day of all Technion University and companies spawned off from it. It should be a very interesting day. Love to all.

Day 3: 9 November 2005

I passed "tired" 20 hours ago and am fueled only by what seems to be an endless sense of awe at what these people (my people) have done with their lives and the respect I have for what I am seeing. It is so humbling.

First, the group I am with consists of really wonderful people. Every one of them. The leader, Jon, is as down to earth a person as I have ever met. His father indeed is the Nat Hirshtick who was my father-in-law's fraternity buddy. What a magnificent tribute Jon is to his father. He speaks of his father with admiration and love often. For Jon, Technion University and all it represents matches his passion. He conveys this in all he says and does. Yet he does so in the most modest and sensitive way. Bottom line - he cares about Israel, its people, its security and its future. And he has made it his life mission to try to make a difference in supporting these things. And I find myself feeling passionate not only by these goals, but in my admiration for an American Jew deciding that it is important and right to care and to act.

Today we spent the day - finally -at Technion University. To say that we received the red carpet treatment is an understatement. Jon and his wife donated a floor of a new and quite lovely computer science building to the University. There was a ribbon cutting ceremony, speeches and lots of fanfare. But that was not the important part of the day for me.

I have always felt that one of the best parts of my work is the good fortune of working with smart - and sometimes brilliant - people. Today, however, was something very different for me. I haven't spent much time with academics and universities in my adult life - and surely not in areas of engineering, physics, computers, medicine and other sciences. I am sure that my reaction to Technion might be repeated at any number of great centers of higher learning in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world. But today I had the privilege of meeting world class scientists, physicians, engineers and academicians. And there is something that made this so different than any other experience I could have had at home. I was at a Jewish university that has collected some of the greatest minds on earth and channeled their brain power for matters that permit Israel to survive and thrive (as well as for their own individual success which I am not so naive as to not recognize).

We started the day at Technion's nano technology lab. One of the professors was a woman younger than me who spoke perfect English, was beautiful and is researching science that I know may (and she believes will) transform the world in countless ways. I asked her when she knew that she was interested in pursuing such a career. She said that her true love was history and archeology, but that she simply loved learning and had not decided to pursue academia and research until she was an adult.

We then went to the "Pre University Center" where soldiers who have been away from school while in the army, and underprivileged but smart kids, can take courses to help them train for admissions tests to Technion. We met and spoke to an Ethiopian young girl whose parents have very little interest in education and listened to her describe how much she wants to be an engineer and go to Technion. She believes that her younger siblings see her as a role model and may try to go to college as well.

Technion was the first University in Israel and was formed because the country recognized that it needed engineers and architects in order to develop. In time, medicine and computer science, as well as many more specialties in the sciences were added. Albert Einstein was a founder and the first president. His quote "imagination is more important than knowledge" so applies to this place.

We then went for a tour of the school with student guides and it was just wonderful. This is Israel's MIT and the hope is that Israel's future will be secured by the ideas and science applications that come out of Technion (and surely other schools). The campus was lovely.

At lunch, we met more professors who spoke about many things, including the conflict between research for the sake of knowledge and research for the sake of ideas that can be applied and commercially exploited. One professor told us that he worries that the latter will overcome the former and eventually eliminate it. Another professor, who served as our host, said that he thought that the most significant development to Israel's high tech success were (1) Nano Technology (Israel is building a $100 million new nano lab and plans on being a world leader in this area), (2) the Russian immigration brought a large number of brilliant talent, (3) our own George Bush's shut down on stem cell research permits Israel to be a leader in this area, and (4) the vast resources (mostly human capital) of Technion. He also noted that the Israeli government's policies support research and development.

We then went to a high tech incubator sponsored by a group of 4 venture capital companies and Technion. Here, I was in a world I know well from my professional life and the discussion was wonderful. These folks help fund and grow start-up companies who have promising and unique technology to the point where venture capital firms will then be willing to invest in them. Some of the companies they have in the incubator now are working on curing diabetes and Parkinson's by implanting certain cells in the liver, developing a vacuum for plaque in arteries, manufacturing disposable endoscopes, developing data compression pursuant to a holographic process that captures 500 gigabytes on a single disk, methods for growing new cartilage, and so much more. It was like listening to science fiction.

We then came back and went to dinner where we met business people who invest in hi tech companies and an MD working on a different cure to diabetes. I am so tired and drained that I am brain dead. I will continue with more detail tomorrow. Sweet dreams. Love you.

Day 4: 10 November 2005

I must begin my email with my profound regret that my beloved Allie is not by my side. I have felt that many times throughout this trip, but I especially felt that today.

Today started with what for all of us was Star Wars. We spent the morning touring Rafael's headquarters and largest plant in Israel. We saw only a small portion of premises that are open to the public - though we assume that we all had some low level security clearance just to enter the campus. Rafael is Israel's defense contractor. Among other things, the company makes missiles of all sorts and we learned all about them, saw them and watched them being assembled. (To all you guys, so sorry that you couldn't be there. Allie, this is the stuff you read about in all your espionage novels and see in the news and on television.) I actually took notes on what we saw. Here are some of the missiles: SkyLite (portable aerial unmanned intelligence gathering unit), air to air missiles (such as Python 5 (never actually been used in combat, latest generation) and the Derby that will travel anywhere the target is, whether it is in sight of pilot or not - all operated by thermal infrared imaging), air to ground missiles such as the Popeye (being used on B 52 bombers), the Lightening (which is a pod used by U.S. on F-16s that targets and navigates 360 degrees), etc., etc. Rafael even makes a ballistic missile - the Blue Sparrow, that is used just so Israel can test its ballistic missile defense system. Rafael has developed the capability of launching these missiles from the air because Israel doesn't have enough land to test launch them. It hopes to commercialize this technology by using the air launching capability to launch satellites. The technology created by Rafael is the basis for the camera pill that is swallowed for imaging the GI tract. All Israeli brains!

We then met with a Rafael executive (been there 40 years) and some Technion students who intern there. Over 80% of the engineers at Rafael are from Technion. So the relationship between Israeli defense and Technion University is directly linked - palpably connected to Israel's existence.

The experience at Rafael was awesome. Imagine seeing an Israeli missile being assembled with German language on it. Yes, the Israeli defense company Rafeal is selling weapons to Germany. Beyond one's imagination! In speaking with students interning there we learned of the use of research and science in missiles being applied to face recognition technology and the commercialization of this. It is all so thrilling for this little country, yet so critical. The executive told us that the competition in technology is more intense than ever and the superiority that the Israeli defense industry once felt is something that they no longer take for granted. The competition "is only one step behind".

After leaving Rafael, we visited the Israeli Air Force's 100th Squadron and were welcomed like VIPs in every sense. The entire time we were there, they filmed us and took pictures that I hope to receive. A soldier invited us in to the "bunker" headquarters building and explained that he had just landed a half hour ago from a routine recognizance mission. This is the unit that does most of the control and recognizance of the occupied areas. We were told that if we read about it in the papers, this unit probably did it. If we don't read it in the papers, this unit most certainly did it. We then were told about the technology that allows twin jet propeller Beachcraft Airplanes (that look really old and not high tech) to see a cigarette but from 30,000 feet in the air. We saw a film showing what the pilot sees and in this instance, it was a group of Palestinians preparing for a "funeral" of someone killed by an Israeli, except that the camera showed the corpse walk up to the stretcher. It was unreal!!!! What pathetic press coverage there is. Israel releases these films to counteract Palestinian propaganda, but no one wants the truth when it isn't blood and guts.

We left the Air Force base after talking to a number of soldiers, walking around the portion of the air field that wasn't secured (much of it we couldn't see), and after having a little "coffee and". I really must note that in absolutely every place we visit, we are greeted with "coffee and". This truly is part of our DNA.

We then drove to lunch outside Tel Aviv where Jon was meeting a distant Israeli cousin who had contacted him based on an internet search plus some information in books published by this man's great-grandfather. It was very cool.

After lunch, we had to say good-bye to two members of our mission. One was Ken who is an absolute doll. He was so much fun on this trip and he and I shared some great laughs. The other was Paul, the Solidworks distributor who was born in Czechoslovakia and lives in Australia. Paul was meeting his daughter for a few days together in Israel. Paul is a reserved man, but extremely insightful and analytical. His opinions on issues were always so interesting. This was his first trip to Israel and after our second day, I didn't think he had caught the fever. Then something changed. As we were all saying good-bye, Paul became very emotional and thanked Jon profusely for this experience in Israel. He then said, "There is a passport in my pocket that identifies who I am. Yet I wonder when I meet my daughter how long it will take her to realize that I am a different man after this trip." I was so blown away and will never forget the look on Paul's face when he said this. He had caught the fever.

It is so sad that Paul and Ken missed our next stop. We went to Tel Aviv to meet with Retired Major General Amos Horev. Jon described him as a "founder" of Israel and that was not mere hype. We probably experienced one of the most special experiences. It lasted nearly 2 hours and we hung on every word of the octogenarian who was born in Jerusalem in 1924 or so, fought in the War of Independence in 1948, was the head of the Israeli Defense Force's Weapons Development, led mobile artillery for the Sinai and 1967 Six Day Wars, was Chairman of the Board of Rafael, and was President of Technion University. And this is not a complete list of his accomplishments! It was unbelievable. The man is barely five feet tall today, but his wisdom was truly overpowering.

He spoke at length about the fight for independence and how Israel learned from that experience that "self reliance" was required if Israel was to survive. He had no college degree at that time but was able to retrofit junk machinery that Israel could get its hands on to make needed tanks and guns. He has great disdain for politics, noting that "politics is something horrible" and claims that politicians, not academicians, are the ones in an ivory tower. He stated that "excellence for Israel is a matter of existence". He believes that technology and science are Israel's life line and that unlike the reality of politics, technology and science mandate processes, investment and long range planning.

Amos received his formal education at MIT but talked of how amazing it is to see Israel today when he knew it over 50 yrs ago. He marvels over every aspect of Israeli development - even the fact that Hebrew - a biblical language - is now spoken by more people than people who speak Norwegian.

We talked about Israel's relationship with America. While he readily acknowledges that the U.S. is Israel's greatest ally, he worries about the day when its interests differ from those of Israel. And he believes that that day will come. Kissinger recently told Israel "don't get too used to America's economic aid". In fact, Amos claims that Israeli companies are often disadvantaged when competing with U.S. companies for sales to Europe because the U.S. pulls out the "we give you aid, so back off" card.

One of the most interesting things this wise and experienced man said had to do with the disengagement. He said (and this is a quote) "Ruling over people - even if they want it - is a corrupt policy". Amos so admired Sharon for the guts to disengage and in this respect compared his courage to that of Ben Gurion (though he thinks that Sharon is very flawed in other respects). According to Amos, Israel should unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank as well, but pursuant to Israel's desired borders (which means retaining the critically strategic land in the Jordan River valley that lies between the Palestinians and Jordan). In Amos' view, Israel will do better with in terms of borders if it unilaterally withdraws than it will with a negotiated withdrawal. It was so interesting.

To all of my loving readers, forgive me for all this detail. I actually took notes when Amos spoke because I am so tired and I knew that I was hearing history and genuine pearls of wisdom from someone who lived a life filled with more modern day miracles than anyone I will ever meet in my life. I share what I can with you, but truthfully there is no way to describe what this session was like. I am just so grateful to have lived it. The meeting with Amos ended when Steve began singing a Hebrew song he had learned as a child in a Jewish youth group. When Steve started singing, I was taken by surprise (to put it mildly), but within seconds, Amos grinned and robustly joined Steve in the song - which it turns out was the Israeli army's marching song during the 1948 War of Independence. Awesome moment!

The day concluded with a walk through Jaffa (even some shopping where all the boys bought their wives beautiful silver jewelry) and then a wonderful dinner at the very hip harbor area. It was great.

But then we had to say good-bye and it was incredibly warm and touching. We have all developed a special bond as we have shared something amazing. Our wonderful guide, Gilad, was part of all of this. He was incredible. My new friend Steve is a great example of what happened on this trip. I know that he had second thoughts about coming on this first trip to Israel for various reasons. After day 2, I know that he was enjoying the trip, but he was seeing Israel as an outsider. Tonight, as we all stood on the hilltop in Jaffa, he asked us to all sing, arm in arm, the Hebrew song that speaks of all of us being family (Henaye matovu manayehm). And so we sang. And then we sang another Hebrew song (Ya a se shalom) (happily, I really did know the words) and we all knew that we had just experienced the most amazing 4 days that any of us could have imagined. And we all had the fever and love for a people and country that we belong to and which is part of us - body and soul. (Steve even confessed that he woke up this morning at 4 a.m. and thought - for a fleeting moment - of making aliyah.)

I am going on and on because I am so tired and so filled with emotion. I must get up at 3:30 a.m. to go to the airport at 4:20 a.m. So I will close tomorrow. But for now, you know about this most remarkable day 4. Love to all.

Epilogue/Random Reflections

First, I must apologize for the typos and illiterate spelling of my past emails. I intend to "scrub" them and share them with the other members of the mission. In fact, Steve plans to make a web site for our trip and I suspect that excerpts of my email journal will be part of it. Actually, there are so many benefits to traveling with techies. My cousin, Bobby Roberman, made a photo slide show of the trip yesterday and was giving people "sticks" so they'd have the pictures (though I am receiving a CD). But even I was part of the tech scene with my daily email journal.

I am so grateful to all of you for indulging me as you have. As you can tell, I am very wired. I slept all of a half hour yesterday and still feel so wound up. As I sit on the plane to London, I find that the only constructive way to release my pent up emotion is to share it with you. So forgive me if I am being presumptuous, but I have one more message in me that I must convey.

There are important and meaningful moments on the trip that I forgot to mention in earlier emails. One occurred when we had lunch with distinguished faculty and students at Technion. Our host apologized for the fact that the president of the University was not with us. The reason was because he was in Malta with one of the Technion professors who recently won the Nobel Prize. They were meeting with Arab and European scientists and University professors to explore ways in which they could collaboratively use science to promote peace. There will be no press coverage of this meeting. It gave me goose bumps to hear this.

At this lunch, my cousin Bobby was seated next to a young woman student who immigrated to Israel from Iran. She is attending Technion because of the Samuel Roberman scholarship that was established thanks to the generosity of my Roberman cousins. This young woman plans to be a mechanical engineer. Bobby did not know that he would be meeting her and to say that he was moved is an understatement.

I later met a Technion student named Ruthie who is about to receive her master's degree. Her post graduate work accomplished advancement in the area of providing external electrical impulses to cause movement in paralyzed people. Her work is not based on muscle memory but rather brain recognition of impulses (or mechanical recognition of brain impulses - I'm not sure which way it went). All I know is that as I sat and listened to her explain her research accomplishments to the guys that better understood her, I knew that she was the real thing. Her degree is in Computer Science as well as Mechanical and Medical Engineering. She is beautiful and brilliant having expertise that covers subjects that I will never comprehend. During the time that we spoke, Ruthie lamented about the previous day's Labor Party election (a very left wing union leader was elected to head the Party) and Ruthie commented that if Israeli politics continue in this direction (anti-business), she may move to the U.S. where she can make a lot more money and have a life without a government led by someone she could never respect or tolerate. I was saddened by the reality of Israeli life and the real frustrations that Israelis live with - some of their own making, but much of it not. The brain drain of Israel's best and brightest is devastating. But who am I to judge?

I can't help but think of how difficult life is in Israel. What must it be like to be a pilot in the army reserve who must take a week off of his/her profession or job for active duty every month? What effect does this have on the individual and how does an employer cope, much less compete, with such obstacles? And what does it do to one's psyche to live in a democracy that has little continuity of leadership because of the need for coalitions. Israelis say that they are experiencing a political earthquake at this moment. A radical is heading the Labor Party and Likud is splintered in two (or more). There may be no more Likud.

All this made me remember what Wendy, Wally, Allie and I experienced when we had our magnificent trip to Israel in February. Then Israel was facing a crisis of budget approval. If Sharon wasn't able to build a coalition to approve a budget, the government would have by law dissolved until new elections were held. Had this occurred, there was not sufficient time for Sharon to be reelected in time to meet the target date for disengagement which he promised to the world.

But Israelis are accustomed to overcoming obstacles and my cousin Bob would say that these types of critical challenges are the reason that Israelis are as good as they are. I pray - that whether it is political or business, economic or military - Israel will always have the will and capability to meet these challenges, please dear G-d. And this leads me to the purpose of the mission.

It isn't hard to "get" Jon Hirshtick's passion about Technion. The formula is as simple as 1 + 1 equals 2. Educating Israel's best and brightest in science and technology is the most powerful way of mining Israel's only natural resource - the brains of its people - the awesome yiddishe kups that are there. And from the research and development that is done by these minds, Israel will be a world leader in science and technology, capable of fueling its economy and, in so doing, securing its future and existence. This is the reason Technion was founded nearly a century ago and though it may be sad that things don't change, Technion's mission is not one bit less important today.

My sisters and I are blessed to be the daughters of Rubin Chaplik - a mechanical genius, an inventor and engineer. His father, our grandfather Isadore Chaplik, was the person our father emulated and was also a mechanical genius. I know that contributing to Technion in some way bridges my father's and grandfather's essence to the passion that they each had and that Allie and I feel toward Israel and its survival. My sweet and amazing husband is perhaps even more excited about all of this than I am. So we will find a way to try to help this cause. We are blessed to be able to try - and I am so grateful for this experience. What is difficult, however, is to make choices among so many worthy and indeed critical charities.

When we were at Technion, we saw a video about Technion which included a piece about what the University does in terms of outreach to high school students, particularly those who are underprivileged and want to attend Technion. The film identified the high school students speaking and where they attended high school. Most all of them were attending ORT schools. I nearly burst with pride knowing the years of service and contribution to ORT made by my mother and Auntie Shirel. These two women, and their brother, personify "giving". Yet, there is no end to need and somehow we make choices.

I pray for Israel's safety and for peace in these most challenging times. I fear that we haven't a clue about what lies ahead in terms of Middle East politics. (Interestingly, the retired Israeli Army Major General Amos Horev told us yesterday that he predicts that Iraq will ultimately be three separate nations.) There is so much to fear, but I will try to overcome my nature and be positive like my husband and my newest upbeat role model, my cousin Bob Roberman.

I want the world to know how much I thank Bobby for asking me to join him on this 4 day life experience. I felt flattered then and am more flattered now. Being with him and sharing this experience was so thrilling. I know our dads are smiling. His father is crying with pride, I am sure.

And I want to publicly thank Jon for generosity beyond measure. The mission was his idea and underwritten entirely by him. How blessed the Jewish State of Israel is for people like Jon. He epitomizes what it is to be a mench. He exemplifies my mother's sage advice that true happiness is achieved only through doing for others. Jon's passion for Israel is truly magnificent.

(For some reason, the subject of charity and values reminds me of the story Steve Heller told us about his mother who as a young child in Eastern Europe just before WWII was told by her father one afternoon that the family was leaving the country immediately, leaving everything behind. Steve's grandfather pleaded with his family members to join him but they all thought it was nuts to leave everything that they had spent their lives building. And as you can surely guess, these relatives so sadly had no lives. They perished in the holocaust. Years later when Steve's brother asked his mother why they didn't have china and silver like all his other friends did, she replied that material things are not what is important in life. In fact, her life was saved because of her father's understanding of this.) Great lesson! Especially for me.

And to all of my wonderful mission companions and friends who may one day read this, I will always treasure our experience and bond. You will never know how much I enjoyed being the sole woman among a group of such feeling, intelligent and quality men. You made me so comfortable and I have so much respect for all of you. Joel, your planning was perfect.

Most of all, thank you my beloved Allie and all my loved ones - family and friends - for sharing my heart. May we all share passions that bring us joy and peace. I promise not to impose my evangelical leanings on you any more than I already have done. Please know that your responses to my emails have not only thrilled me, but they served to make me realize what I was really experiencing. My reality somehow seemed clearer when I read your reactions to it. Love and thanks to you all. Now - maybe I finally will be able to get some sleep. Shalom.

Linda's Email From Israel:
Arrival - Day One - Day Two - Day Three - Day Four - Epilogue/Reflections
Chaverim: Bob - Gilad - Joel - Jon - Ken - Leonid - Linda - Paul - Scott - Steve
Technion Mission - Chaverim - Linda's Email Diary - Shabbat in Jerusalem - Steve's Larger Trip
Heller Web Space: Images - Notes - Travel - Memories