Chinese, German students experience the ‘Start-up Nation'

Thirty six students visit Ramat Gan-based Academic Center of Law and Business as part of overseas program.

Students visit a Tel Aviv start up 390 (photo credit: Courtesy Gil Lupo)
Students visit a Tel Aviv start up 390
(photo credit: Courtesy Gil Lupo)
BERLIN – The Ramat Gan-based Academic Center of Law and Business hosted six Chinese and 36 German students over the past two weeks as part of an innovative overseas program to jump-start business and cultural ties.
Dr. David Menashri, the former head of the Center for Iranian studies at Tel Aviv University, became president of the Center of Law and Business last year.
“I consider the overseas program as an important initiative and therefore pushed to promote it since I became president in October,” he told The Jerusalem Post last week. “We made Think Global a motto of the Center of Law and Business and hosting over 40 students in the winter program attests to how seriously we take such a program.”
Given the traditional academic partnerships with the United States, Menashri seeks to carve out new programs that attract students from Europe and the Far East. “It is no coincidence that our first agreements were signed with Germany, South Korea and China.
The first program brought in students from Germany and China,” he said.
The Post conducted telephone interviews with Chinese and German students last week, as well as with two academics from German universities, who departed Israel on Sunday. The participants expressed euphoria over the program and their experiences in Israel.
The students crisscrossed the country, including visits to Jerusalem, Masada and the North. One of the main thrusts of the intensive two-week program was to immerse the students and faculty in the Israeli start-up hi-tech sector.
Zhang Zhao, a 26-year-old who studies technology management at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China, said that Israel is “an impressive country with friendly people.” He expressed enthusiasm about Israelis’ extroverted culture and friendliness.
Asked about the differences between China and Israel, he pointed to the contrasts between the Mediterranean climate and northern China. “It is snowing right in now my hometown,” he said.
He added that contrary to the impression among many Chinese “that Israel is a dangerous country, the biggest surprise I found, in truth, is Israel is a beautiful country and good to go and have a trip.”
All of the visiting Chinese students attend the Harbin Institute of Technology.
While Zhang and two other students are from Harbin, the other three students come from elsewhere in China.
Menashri said, “It is essential to have young people to engage with each other and learn more about the ‘other.’ When I saw the German, Israeli and Chinese engaging with each other, I knew our initial program was a great success. For us, in Israel, it is even more important. It is essential that young (and not only young) people will know what Israel really presents. They usually think about Israel as a region of conflict and violence; it was so refreshing to see them focusing on science, culture and art. Such programs also put a human face on us. They see Israel as human beings. Some of the students told me how their parents were concerned that they come to the Middle East. They can now tell them what they saw.”
Stephan Christian Zaulich, a student from the University of Mainz in Germany, told the Post that it is “my third time in Israel” but it is the “first time I have been together to be with so many Israel students. It is amazing to get different points of view and to meet so many politicians and businessmen.”
Zaulich, a 27-year-old concentrating on politics, said he is studying “the role of religion in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Rotem Ben-Maman, 23, an Israeli student from the Academic Center of Law and Business, said, We “had an amazing weekend together. We discovered we have a lot in common.”
She added that “although I am from law school, it was very interesting” to learn about politics and business. “We wanted to show them the beautiful part of Israel and not show what is only presented in the TV.”
She said that when she goes abroad or speaks with tourists, it “is very upsetting” because of the mistaken impressions of Israel. “We have a lot of successful parts of our country and we are not living in fear. It is a good life. We are studying, going out, we have families. The TV makes it look like all the time there are fights with Gaza and Iran.”
Alfred Wittstock, a leading German professor of Israel studies at the University of Mainz, said 20 students from Mainz are participating in the program.
Wittstock, who studied in Israel, teaches Hebrew for beginners at his university, which is an academic partner to the Center of Law and Business.
Management and economics professor Gerd Michael Hellstern, from the University of Kassel, said it was his first visit to Israel and he had “learned a lot.” He accompanied 15 students from Kassel and stressed that the “idea is to bring economies together.” He cited a company in Kassel, SMA Solar Technology AG, that has invested in Israel.
The 15 Kassel students study business.
According to Hellstern, “The future will be determined by the creative economy. Israeli society is a promoter of creativity. You know [former Jerusalem Post editorial page editor] Saul Singer, you read his book [Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle], that is the background.”