If Only All Israeli Challenges Were Like Israel Tech Challenge

Some people like challenges more than others. Some run from them, while others seek them out. Israelis or Jews in general seem to strive on challenges — simply no other choice but to embrace and overcome the challenges given our historic and present circumstances.

It’s no surprise then to see challenges intentionally created — enter Israel Tech Challenge. It’s a not for profit initiative that launched in 2013 to bring bright young adults from Jewish diaspora to Israel for the top-notch training in coding and tech business.

Oren Toledano and Raphael Ouzan

The project is a labor of love and passion of the team led by two co-founders, Raphael Ouzan and Oren Toledano, who made aliya and met during IDF service in elite tech units. Their professional achievements — Raphael’s founding of successful startup BillGuard and receipt of President’s Award for technology innovation on one hand, and on another — Oren’s leadership of Aliya delegation in France-Belgium after a decade in the army and reaching the rank of Major — beautifully merge two ideas of the project —Technology and Zionism. That synergy is also seen in the institutional founding partners— Israeli National Cyber Bureau, The Jewish Agency and private investors.

What’s so challenging about learning in the fun atmosphere in the gorgeous Tel Aviv? The experience starts from the highly selective admission process. Once in, participants test and enhance their coding and team building abilities, and often times they compete with and against each other in hackathons. In the end, they often have a chance to apply the acquired skills at the leading tech companies while in Israel.

The programs’ boot-camp or start-up accelerator feel is accompanied by the bonding with Israel in the manner of Birthright or MASA programs. Whether participants spend 10 days or 10 weeks or 10 months on the programs that vary in format and content, they inevitably develop strong affinity to Israel just like they develop a whole bouquet of hard and soft tech skills. And the experience doesn’t end when the formal program ends. Graduates will forever be part of the growing network of best and brightest coders that work at established leading companies or new enterprises in Israel and around the world.

Reading ITC web site or social media accounts, I can’t help but think and visualize what a fun experience it must be for these guys and girls to hang out 24/7 in the class rooms, on the roof tops, on the beach or on the corporate tours with the peers who are so much like them in many ways (Jewish, nerdy being main ones, I imagine, and nerdy here is a compliment) yet having grown up in different cultures — let it be US, Argentina, France, UK, Russia or wherever else our people live. The ITC team obviously has a good sense of humor and feeds it to and feeds off the participants’ ingenuity as well, I’m sure. Just read the 10 Completely Logical Reasons to Learn Coding in Israel they put together or watch this adorable Interview video that doubles as shakshuka preparation tutorial.

Worth noting that while the focus of the organization from the beginning has been on bringing young adults from Jewish diaspora to Israel for these tech programs, Israel Tech Challenge recognizes they could play an important role in integrating more women, more disadvantaged members of Israeli society or very religious segments of the local community into the tech world, and so they are opening discussions with potential partners in those directions.

To pick up on what Israel Tech Challenge came up with in those 10 reasons to learn coding in Israel, it is “a place to be bold and direct as you learn programming, a place to speak your brilliant geeky mind — everybody does” there. And ultimately, Israel is a place to “be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

If you feel inspired to be that change by helping Israel Tech Challenge from investing, advisory, corporate or community partnership stand-point, please reach out and I’ll be happy to connect you with the team or send email to info@israeltechallenge.com. If you are in Bay Area, you may even meet up with one of the co-founders in person the first week of March 2016.

And if you are in 18–30 year old age range and ready to take the challenge, explore the Programs, study Application Requirements and apply! Overcoming this particular “challenge” will be meaningful in so many ways.

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