Students Reflect on SDSU-Technion Engineering Israel Trip

Students Reflect on SDSU-Technion Engineering Israel Trip

From April through June, four Israeli and San Diego student groups travelled to and from Israel as part of collaborations between SDSU and the Technion, led by Professor Joe Katz, and USD and the Azrieli College of Engineering, led by Professor Frank Jacobitz.

Throughout the academic year, students collaborate remotely via Zoom and Facebook. These are safe academic spaces for questions and learning about other countries and cultures. Students gain knowledge about their peers and Israel, its key successes and challenges, and its complexity. 

Read more about their experiences below!

Kyle Mapanao
"The group started the day by visiting Yad Vashem, the national heritage and memorial site for the victims of the Holocaust. A tour guide led us through the Holocaust Remembrance Museum, which walked viewers through the events leading up to the Holocaust, the horrible actions taken against the Jews during the time, and the legacy of the Holocaust and how Yad Vashem is taking action to remember the victims of the event. The entire tour was presented in a very respectful manner to honor the lives cut too short, and those who tried to help combat the injustice that took place.

Next, we visited the old city in Jerusalem. After taking a walk through the narrow streets of the Old City, and passing by vendors across the streets, we visited important holy sites for Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The first was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The church serves as an important site for Christianity as the site where Jesus was crucified and the empty tomb of Jesus, believed to have been where he was both buried and resurrected.

Next, we visited the Western Wall, a site important to both Judaism and Islam. The wall is a section of Herod’s Temple which encased a hill known as the Temple Mount. For Muslims, this site is where the Prophet Muhammad tied his winged steed al-Buraq before ascending to paradise. For Judaism, the wall is the holiest place to pray for Jews for its proximity to the Temple Mount. When we visited the wall, we found many Orthodox Jews saying prayers at the wall. We ended the day by arriving at our hotel in Tel-Aviv. The group headed out to explore the streets of the city, finding a place to eat as well as visiting the local bars and stores on the streets.

Overall, I think this trip changed my perspective in how I viewed Israel for the better. Often in the U.S. our exposure to Israel is focused on politics or government and while it’s easy to misinterpret the country itself with what we hear on the news, the trip was fortunately a sobering experience. While of course there are various cultural differences between two countries on the other side of the world, one thing I noticed immediately was how similar Israel is to the U.S. in day-to-day life and how its people shared similar experiences and values that I and others have in the U.S. This was a truly once in a lifetime travel experience, and I think that I can safely recommend anyone with reservations to take the next step and plan a trip out to Israel."

Garrett Bakoo
"We started the day in Jerusalem by going to Yad Vashem. It was a very somber and educational experience. Next, we visited the Old City. It was fascinating getting to see a city with so much history and significance. We saw important sights for all three Abrahamic religions including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the West Wall, and Dome of the Rock. By participating in this collaboration and trip I was able to learn more about the rich history Israel has both historically and religiously. The Israeli national parks (Masada & Caesarea) and visiting Jerusalem really brought to life things I had only read about before."

Archer Hovey
"We started the day at the Arbel Suites Hotel, which was actually converted from an apartment building to a hotel. We got breakfast at the Dizengoff Cafe, which had numerous options to choose from... from French toast to shakshuka. Then, we visited the beaches of Tel Aviv. I was personally very impressed with the beaches there. It had lots of public-use recreation like volleyball courts and workout stations. The water there was also beautiful and clear. After the beach, we took a trip to the ancient city of Jaffa. We admired the incredibly old architecture and narrow paths. There was also an incredible view of the modern city of Tel Aviv and the ocean from Jaffe. We visited the Jaffa flea market, which was very lively with lots of hustle and bustle. We all bartered and bought souvenirs for ourselves and others. After that, we went to a middle eastern pastry shop and tried new and interesting sweets. Then, we ate at the restaurant The Old Man and the Sea, fittingly located right by the Old Jaffa docks. We were again blown away by the sheer quantity of food placed before us... and left with full stomachs! Next, we returned to the Forchheimer Guest house in Technion, Haifa and spent the rest of the day relaxing in
free time. This was a welcome change of pace from the last few days, which were very fast paced.

For dinner, we all wanted to try Israeli McDonalds to see how different it was from America. The burgers were massive! Then, we went up to the base of the Bahá'í Gardens and got pictures of the stunning lights at night."

Omar Ortuno
Today we had breakfast at Cafecafe on campus. We all got the Shakshuka, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. We then rode the cable car up to the top of the campus. The views were absolutely stunning. After the cable cars we met Arnie, the man in charge of the UAV workshop at Technion, he was very intelligent, personal, and welcoming. We then met up with our friends at the Technion who we’ve been in contact with for the past year, it was so nice to see them again. We made our way to the Technion visitors center where we met Nitzan, he gave us a very informative tour. A short break later, we headed down to Shawatina, a beautiful restaurant. We were served a plentiful amount of food, all so delicious and we conversed with one of the sponsors, and various friends. We took a quick stroll along Bat Galim beach and enjoyed the nightly view. We then drove back to campus and prepared for a party set up by the student faculty, it was full of energy and dancing people who were all so happy to let loose. That was the end of our first night in Israel."

Tyler Wilke
"To start the day, we had breakfast at a cafe, wherewe all got sandwiches. After breakfast we went into the Basilica of the Annunciation, which was where the virgin Mary was told she would have Jesus and where he was raised. After that we went north to the border of Israel and Lebanon, Rosh Hanikra, and saw the caves and old train tracks. Lastly, we visited the Crusader citadel and the acre harbor which has been an open port for the last 4,000 years. We then had dinner on the harbor and bent back to Technion. I didn't realize how developed Israel was before going and how safe the country actually was, since in the news you only hear about the attacks. After getting to go and experience the country I learned that much of the county is like the United States (just with better food). I also learned more about the horrific history of the Jewish people during WW2 and not having access to their homeland. I thought that the collaboration went very well, and the meetings helped each side further their projects more than what we could have done by ourselves."

Joshua Goldstein
Today we went and got breakfast at this really good spot in Haifa with Oded, the Technion representative. We then went to Nazareth to the Basilica of the Annunciation, which was incredible to see. From there, we went to the North-Western tip of Israel to the Rosh Hanikra old railroad tracks. These were super interesting to see and learn about. From there, we visited the amazing site of Old Akko which was an old crusader ruin owned by many people throughout the centuries. We ended that day with a lovely dinner by the water in Acre and went back home to Technion after.

Overall, it was an incredible experience and a very good day! Because this was my second trip to Israel, my view of the country didn’t change a whole lot. My love for the country only grew. However, seeing the Technion University was awesome considering I didn’t get to do this last time on my trip. I didn’t realize how many innovative inventions and technology came out of Israel, so that was really cool to see."

Elliott Cumming
"This wonderful day started out with us refueling at the restaurant called Cafécafé, located at the center of campus. We had some delicious shakshuka and bread. Then the results of the projects were presented in front of our Israeli friends. Once the presentations were finished, we went on a tour in the Technion propulsion lab and wind tunnel.

Once the interesting tour was finished, we embarked on our journey south. On our way to visit the historical Masada, we stopped and ate lunch at the famous Elvis diner. The diner had delicious burgers that may or may not have been secretly lamb. After the burgers were eaten and the souvenirs were bought, we headed onward towards Masada.

After discovering the Elvis Diner, we did not think our excitement could surpass that, well we were horribly wrong. There was a camel at sea level. We naturally pulled over and took pictures in front of the sign and camel. Some people even rode the camel who was named Camel Joe. Then we got back in the cars and kept on moving. Masada was a very beautiful and amazing spot to visit. The view on top of the mountain overlooking the Dead Sea and the ramp the Romans made to conquer the fortress was a sight that was unforgettable. We went to the Dead Sea after going to Masada. Going to the Dead Sea was one of my favorite parts of the trip just because of how unique the experience is. Floating in the water to that degree was really different than any water I have been in before. There were also salt balls everywhere on the ground which made good souvenirs.

We ended this amazing day in the city of Jerusalem. We got our hotel rooms and explored the city. Oded took point and guided us through the exciting city. We ate some amazing shawarma and many claim it to be their top meal of the trip. After going on this trip, my view of Israel drastically changed. I did not know much about the country before going there and I was amazed how beautiful it was. One thing I noticed was how friendly everyone was towards tourists, which made me feel very welcome. The food was fantastic, however that was not a surprise to me. I really enjoyed my time there and all of the great people I met there."