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May 2014


Pioneers Mission Deepens Connections

Group Mission 2014.jpg
Pioneers Of Progress Mission participants at the Norman and Helen Asher Space Research Institute
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The group poses for a photo with soldiers on Ammunition Hill

The proverbial “word on the street” is that the recently concluded ATS Pioneers in Progress Mission to Israel (April 26-May 7, 2014) may have been one of the most exciting trips ever.

This Mission began in the Negev, which for many of the 31 participants was their first visit to the desert. They stayed at the Beresheet Hotel in Mitzpe Ramon, which offered expansive desert views; toured the geological wonders of the Ramon Crater by jeep; visited the kibbutz that David Ben Gurion made his home; toured Netafim, the company that pioneered drip irrigation; and dined under an elegant tent on a family-run farm that grows flowers in the desert.

A late April schedule also allowed Mission-goers to experience the very special and emotionally charged week between Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), and Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel’s Memorial and Independence Days). When the sirens announce the start of Memorial Day, “the nation comes to a standstill. It’s quite amazing,” says Ilene Berger, who co-chaired the Mission along with her husband, Steve. The group attended Memorial Day ceremonies on the historic Ammunition Hill and at the Technion. President Peretz Lavie led the Technion ceremony in Hebrew, while Mission-goers used headphones to listen in English. “The singing, the emotion was beautiful,” says Ilene. “Almost every student goes to the Army. It was very moving.”

Other Mission highlights included opportunities to follow the footsteps of the Israeli paratroopers that liberated Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War; to explore the City of David; to taste the delicacies offered up in Jerusalem’s open-air Mahane Yehuda market; and to join in a number of optional activities, including a guided tour through the streets of Jerusalem by Segway.  

At the Technion, the group met alumnus and Visiting Professor Dr. Yoav Medan, who helped develop non-invasive surgery for InSightec Ltd. and is working to improve surgical procedures at the Medical Systems Center of the Technion Autonomous Systems Program. Ruth Boneh, Director of the Technion Computer Engineering Center, spoke about the work of the new center, which is poised to keep the Technion at the forefront of developments in computer engineering. Participants broke into smaller groups to visit various laboratories in the Asher Space Research Institute, and to meet some of the vibrant new Technion faculty. They also visited labs in the new D. Dan Kahn and Betty Kahn Mechanical Engineering Building and the Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, and attended the dedication of the Carol B. Epstein Kindergarten Classroom/Playground.

“The trip exceeded my expectations by far,” says supporter David Cohn of the ATS Phoenix Chapter. “I would describe the Mission as flawless, and I think that captures everyone’s emotion.” Thanking the Mission’s organizers, from the Bergers to the professional staff, he added: “You sent us home with precious moments, which are now indelible in our minds.”

The Bergers are both Technion Guardians, graduates of the National 21st Century Leadership Development Program and members of the ATS Genesis Circle Legacy Society. Steve is the ATS Philadelphia Chapter Board President and a member of the national Board of Directors; Ilene serves on the ATS Philadelphia Chapter Board.

Click here to view more photos of the Mission.

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