Gal Raz, Associate Dean of Research and Associate Professor of Sustainability and Operations Management at Ivey, knows firsthand the wealth of learning opportunities found in Israel.
Raz, an Israeli citizen, has led numerous experiential learning programs at business schools around the globe for more than 20 years, exposing hundreds of students to the rich history, culture, and people of Israel.
The Ivey Israel Business Trip is an experiential learning opportunity offered each year to HBA students. It is funded through the Schwartz-Reisman Foundation’s Canada-Israel Exchange Program, and is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for 18 Ivey students and six Israeli students to travel over three weeks within Canada and to Israel, one of the world’s most entrepreneurial ecosystems. It provides an opportunity for students to acquire international business experience, engage in collaborative, real-world problem-solving, learn innovative management and operations, and gain new perspectives through a combination of lectures and a rich mix of business, political, and cultural experiences.
Bringing Ivey and Israeli students together
The 2023 cohort, led by Raz and Ivey lecturer and entrepreneur Sarah Landstreet, MBA ’13, travelled across Southwestern Ontario and within Israel to a variety of government and not-for-profit organizations, business incubators, and cultural and historical sites. Students gained a rich mix of international business experience, engaged in collaborative, real-world problem-solving, learned innovative management and operations, and attained new perspectives through the combination of lectures and business, political, and cultural experiences.
Raz said, unlike other trips with a more tourism-focus, the Ivey Israel Business Trip provides students with a truly immersive, global learning experience.
“One of Ivey’s Strategic Critical Issues is Canada’s Place In The World, and this course signifies what we mean by that. The students get to learn about another country and what it means to be a global citizen,” said Raz. “Having the Israeli students here and the way the course is designed helps students to really understand, what is Israel and what are the challenges the country faces? It’s a real immersion in a country and usually students don’t get many opportunities like it.”
A focus on communities
A core part of the course curriculum is the venture project that includes concepts of idea generation, business model development, market research and analysis, and preparation for industry implementation. Each year, an overarching theme is selected and embedded across the various elements of the course, and for the 2023 delivery, the selected theme was “community.”
To align with this theme, while in Canada, the students visited the Communitech business accelerator in Kitchener, the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto, and the Ska-Nah-Doht Village and Museum in Mount Brydges.
Overseas, the students travelled across Israel and visited the government ministries, various tech accelerators, incubators, and local businesses all over Israel, along with visits to the Dead Sea, the Negev Desert, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and more. The students presented their final group venture projects at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and shared feedback with their peers, as part of the culminating curricular activity.
Raz said highlights of the trip included a hike at dawn to the iconic Masada fortress, kayaking on the mighty Jordan River, and observing a political protest held by female activists in Tel Aviv. The students also enjoyed a surprise visit while in Tel Aviv from Canadian businesswoman and philanthropist Heather Reisman, CEO of Indigo Books and Music, and founder of the course funding Foundation.
One of the big takeaways students can gain from the course and the country known as “The Startup Nation” is how to grow an entrepreneurial venture. HBA student Elisa Shi, part of the 2023 course cohort, co-founded two tech startups while in high school and found the trip to be a perfect fit.
“I learned a lot about the different aspects of creating a business and these are skills I can put into practice,” she said. “The Israeli people are big risk-takers and it encouraged me to be proactive.”
Fellow student Avril Sun was also inspired by the Israeli entrepreneurial spirit observed during the experience.
“Two of the six Israeli students in the course already had startups and inspired me to think, Yes, I can do this,” she said. “I met so many like-minded people and if I ever wanted to launch a startup in the future, I now have people I can turn to for support.”
Glen Raudanskis, another HBA student in the cohort, has already been working on a startup and said he gained a lot of knowledge that could be applied to move it forward, including how to prepare an investment pitch. Although he has visited Israel before, and his parents both previously lived there, Raudanskis said it was a different experience to explore its entrepreneurial eco-system. A highlight was seeing the non-Jewish students respond so positively to the country. Raudanskis said he hopes it will help to change some perceptions of Israel.
“As a Jewish person living in Canada, it was great for me to see everyone on the trip who isn’t Jewish just fall in love with Israel and want to come back to it. It was heartwarming because I feel there is more misrepresentation of Israel than other countries and antisemitism is on the rise in North America,” he said. “That’s a little scary for me as a Jewish person so it was nice to see so many people from Canada were able to see Israel and build their own opinion of it.”
Preparing for the 2024 edition
Planning has already begun for the 2024 delivery of the Ivey Israel Business Trip. Collecting student feedback as part of continuous course improvement and development is a key part of the course preparation each year, said Raz. The trip continues to provide a life-changing learning opportunity for HBA students, and Raz himself has enjoyed building lasting connections with students (many have later pursued his HBA Global Supply Chain Management elective course), and gaining new and different insights from the group each year.
“As an Israeli living in Canada, it’s always been fascinating for me to see the country through the eyes of the students which makes it exciting every single year,” said Raz.
Ivey Israel Business Trip
A stop in the desert
Kayaking on the Jordan River
The sunrise in Masada
A women's protest in Tel Aviv
Time for a group shot