CalChamber Blog Highlights Synergies with California on Israel Trip

At the invitation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, California Chamber of Commerce Vice President of International Affairs Susanne T. Stirling joined a small group of state and metro chambers from around the U.S. on a five-day business trip through Israel.

Stirling found her trip to be an excellent opportunity to learn about the high-tech industry and start-ups in Israel, and gain a deeper understanding of the many similarities between Israel and California, together with areas where we can learn from each other.

The trip itinerary enabled participants to look at some specific sectors where there are synergies with business communities also represented in California, and spend some time seeing cultural, religious, and historic sites.

Trip attendees met with top government officials and business leaders to better understand Israel’s business, geopolitical, and historical landscape. Attendees also met with venture capitalists and scientists; visited American research and development centers; toured Tel Aviv’s unique start-up scene; and saw many of Israel’s historic and religious sites. Stirling, along with other chamber leaders, also had the opportunity to meet with Israeli chambers and representatives of companies that are looking to do business in the United States.

Israel Trip Blog

Stirling chronicled the Israel trip in a five-part blog for the CalChamber. The trip followed the October 16 convening of the 32nd session of the U.S.-Israel Joint Economic Development Group (JEDG), the annual economic policy dialogue between the two countries. Both sides acknowledged significant progress in the bilateral economic relationship over the last three decades and pledged to continue expanding and deepening policy coordination and cooperation across a broad range of sectors.

To read the full blog, visit www.calchamber.com/international. Below is a sampling of Stirling’s blog entries:

Arriving in Israel

“After a nearly 14-hour flight on United Airlines’ relatively new direct flight, inaugurated April 2016, from SFO to Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV), I arrived in Israel at the same time I had left San Francisco the day prior.”

Israel Trip – Day 0

“I had the day to myself before the trip officially started with the U.S. Chamber the next day. I walked to the ancient port city of Jaffa on the ocean front promenade that connects it to Tel-Aviv. Jaffa is one of the world’s oldest ports, it might even be the oldest. In fact, the port of Jaffa is where, in the Bible, Jonah set off to sea only to be swallowed by the whale. Jaffa is covered in cobblestone streets and centuries-old buildings that line narrow roads. I wandered over to the Jaffa Flea Market and tried my hand at bargaining for some tchotchkes to take home as souvenirs. Bargaining is so prevalent here, I was advised to never agree to the first price a seller demands.”

Israel Trip – Day 1

“We met in the lobby of the hotel bright and early and headed to the ancient fortification of Masada, a little over a two-hour drive away from Tel Aviv.

“After the breathtaking views of Masada, the group headed to the Dead Sea for lunch and a swim. The Dead Sea borders Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan.

“The Welcome Dinner brought together the entire delegation with leaders from the U.S. Chamber’s Israel partner organization, the Israel-American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham Israel).”

Israel Trip – Day 2

“This morning we received an orientation from Myron Brilliant, delegation leader, and EVP and Head of International Affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as Josh Kram, the Senior Director of Middle East Affairs for the U.S. Chamber. Both formally welcomed the group and expressed again the purpose of this trip was for the first time visitors to Israel to better understand the country, from the business side, to the major political issues, to history and culture.”

Israel Trip – Day 3

“After exploring Jerusalem all morning, we had  the opportunity to meet the mayor of the ancient city, Nir Barkat. Mr. Barkat assumed the office in 2008 and was re-elected in 2013. He has worked to preserve the rich culture of the city with a message of respect and pluralism for its many residents. Mr. Barkat, himself, was formerly a tech entrepreneur as well as a major in the Israel Defense Forces. He spoke to us about his role as mayor for the City of Jerusalem. Mayor Barkat has increased the municipal budget by an average of 10% each year in office, spurring dramatic growth in employment, investment in infrastructure, and cultural development.”

Israel Trip – Day 4

“Today we received a briefing at Intel’s Development Center in Haifa.

Intel was first established in Israel in 1974, with four major sites in the country. Intel is the largest private sector employer in Israel with 10,200 employees and indirectly supports the employment of 30,000 others in Israel. Intel is also Israel’s largest private exporter. This year Intel purchased Mobileye, an Israeli smart car start-up for US $15 billion.”

Israel Trip – Day 5

To close the trip, the group heard again from Myron Brilliant, EVP and Head of International Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Josh Kram, Senior Director of Middle East Affairs at U.S. Chamber; and Oded Rose, CEO of AmCham Israel. All shared our experiences of the past week and ideas of how we can increase U.S.-Israeli commerce in our communities back home. Brilliant spoke how he had recently met with Chemi Peres, the son of former President of Israel Shimon Peres. Brilliant asked Chemi Peres what he thought of his father’s legacy, and Peres replied saying his father was one of the fathers of the State of Israel and that he was most proud of his father’s vision of hope and optimism. His father, Shimon Peres, wanted everyone, not just Israelis, to live big and dream even bigger.

“I will take back with me to California all of my experiences from the past week in Israel and look forward to developing networks that will advance our community’s connection to the bilateral relationship with Israel.”

The full blog is posted at www.calchamber.com/international.

Staff Contact: Susanne T. Stirling