Haifa Teen Tech participants and their instructors at the President's Residence..
(photo credit: EYTAN PARDO ROQUES)
After Haifa-born Sec.-Lt. Shira Zur, 20, was one of four soldiers murdered when a terrorist rammed a car into the place where they were resting in Jerusalem in January 2017, her family wanted to memorialize her in a way that would reflect who she was.
Like many young Israelis, she was curious, adventurous, ambitious, and anxious about the possibility of failing the people who believed in her. This emerged in a letter read out on Thursday at the President’s Residence by her 15-year-old sister Gaya. The letter also contained references to friends whom she wanted her family to contact.
“Shira was good at staying in touch with people. She never gave up her contacts with anyone,” said Gaya.
Had she lived, Shira would probably have embarked on a career in hi-tech, and with this in mind, her family established Haifa Teen Tech International, a challenge for students in grades 10-12 aimed at developing innovators and researchers for the next generation of tech industries.
The initiative focuses on exposing young technological entrepreneurs from around the world to Israel’s science and technology, to their Israeli peers and to various sites in Israel, and to ensure that they have an interesting and fun-filled time during their 10-day stays in the country.
It was hoped that the trip to Israel, the participation in the competition for innovation and entrepreneurship, and the friendships quickly made would become part of an enduring bond.
Thirty-five youngsters aged 16 to 18 of various nationalities and religions, plus 30 Israelis, wearing marine blue sweat shirts, came to the President’s Residence for the lighting of the third Hanukka candle. Although it was a little early in the day for the ceremony, this didn’t seem to bother anyone, especially the youths, who feasted on a variety of doughnuts before the candle-lighting ceremony.
A committee of top level researchers and academics chose the applicants based on technological achievement, social activity and awareness, and academic recommendations and community endorsement.
During their time together, all 65 continued their innovation activities.
President Reuven Rivlin, in welcoming them, said that whenever he hosts a group of young, smart people, it makes him feel young and smart again – if only for a short period.
He emphasized the importance of meeting new people, having fun, and doing good together, and commended the Zur family on its initiative in memorializing its daughter and sister in this manner.
To the young people in front of him he said: You will get to know Shira Zur even though you will never meet her. She would have loved this competition and this is a wonderful way in which to honor her memory.”
Referencing some of the things they would encounter in Israel, Rivlin said, “The most inspiring thing you will see is the people of Israel – the people of the Start-Up Nation who understand that great things are built together.”
Avram Hershko, the 2004 Nobel laureate in Chemistry and a professor at the Faculty of Medicine at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, spoke enthusiastically about meeting “so many young and wonderful people,” praised the Zur family’s initiative, and was happy that the teens would get to know something of Israel and would get a taste of Israel’s science and technology.
Haifa Deputy Mayor Hedva Almog said that Mayor Yona Yahav was determined to make his city attractive to young entrepreneurs and innovators, and to teach hi-tech to children from kindergarten onward. According to Almog, Yahav frequently says that Haifa is the smallest city in the world in which three Nobel Prize winners live and work.
Other partners are the Technion, Radio Haifa, IBM, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, and the Tiltan School of Design and Visual Communication. Almog said that she hoped that Haifa Teen Tech would become an annual event.
Candles were lit by Shira’s father, David Zur, and Liora Kalish, the founding director of Haifa Teen Tech.