Category Archives: Cultural visit

Shabbat in Jerusalem and departure day

On Saturday, our last day in Israel, it was shabbat. We didn’t scheduled anything, so some of us decided to sleep late in the morning (after all, it was well-deserved!), others wanted to buy some souvenirs, and others went to the old city again, to see the rampart’s walk.

There is a lot of choice for buying souvenirs in the old city: kippas, Armenian ceramics, jewelry, rosary, etc.

kippas, Jerusalem

kippas, Jerusalem

The rampart's walk, Jerusalem

The rampart's walk, Jerusalem

After this last walk in Jerusalem, we all get on the minibus. Direction: the airport. After a long wait at the security check, we changed shekels into euros, and we boarded.

We had a stop in Munich, and a few hours later we landed in cold and rainy Paris (after the worst landing we ever had, we almost died!).

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Jerusalem old city: 3 religions in 1 square kilometre

On Friday afternoon, we visited the old city of Jerusalem.

Its history is so complex it would be too long to explain here, but you can have a look on Wikipedia. To summarize: a very long time ago, importants events happened in the old city of Jerusalem for the Jews, the Catholics and the Muslims. Years passed, and Jerusalem became claimed by the 3 monotheistic religions. Then the city had been divided into 4 parts: the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter and the Armenian Quarter, so that everybody could live together.

The old city almost did not change until today. We entered by Jaffa gate. From the outside, you can sea huge ramparts hiding minarets and church towers. Inside, it is a labyrinth of tiny little streets. It’s easy to get lost, but our guide showed us the way to the main monuments.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Jerusalem old city: the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Jerusalem old city: the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

It is located in the Christian Quarter. It looks like a common church, but what we saw inside was really amazing. The church is supposed to be located on the Golgotha, the hill where Jesus was crucified. The church is divided into many chapels, with a different architectural style. In one of the chapel, we saw people queuing up in order to touch with their hand the rock on which the church is built.

In another room, we saw people lying on and kissing the Stone of Anointing, on which they suppose Jesus had been anointed before he was buried.

Candles in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Candles in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was overcrowded, with pilgrims coming from everywhere. We could really see their religious fervour.

Then we went out of the church, walked in a few streets, and arrived almost as if by magic on the most famous plaza in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem old city: a tiny street

Jerusalem old city: a tiny street

The Temple Mount and the Western Wall

This place is sacred for Jews. It is said the Western Wall is a vestige of the Temple. The plaza is full of people: tourists, but also worshipers. Like them, we went in front of the wall, touched it, and put a prayer note with a wish between the stones. Even if you are not religious, the Western Wall is very impressive by its size (its very high!) and the people praying there. 

Jerusalem old city: the Western Wall

Jerusalem old city: the Western Wall

Guy, Ricardo, Ronan and Clément H in front of the Western Wall

Guy, Ricardo, Ronan and Clément H in front of the Western Wall

Alice, Shannon and Sophie in front of the Western Wall

Alice, Shannon and Sophie in front of the Western Wall

The Western Wall: prayer notes

The Western Wall: prayer notes

Just behind the wall, we could see the Dome of the Rock shining under the sun.

The Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque

They are located in the Muslim Quarter. Unfortunately, we could not visit these two monuments, because it was on Friday (day of rest), so it was closed. The Dome of the Rock is golden, you can see it from almost everywhere in Jerusalem.

At the end of this visit in the old city, we had realized how much Jerusalem is different from Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv had seemed to us very young, lively, business-oriented, whereas Jerusalem seemed very ancient, religious, and a patchwork of different people.

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A lunch at Mahane Yehuda Market

After visiting Yad Vashem, we needed something to cheer us up. So we went to Mahane Yehuda Market to have lunch.

Mahane Yehuda Market: the crowd

Mahane Yehuda Market: the crowd

It’s a lively and overcrowded place where you can find almost everything for cooking and eating: fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, spices, dried fruits and pastries, yummy!

Mahane Yehuda Market: spices

Mahane Yehuda Market: spices

We had some falafel sandwiches. It was fat and tasty! After that we were ready for a long walk in the old city of Jerusalem.

Sophie, Alice and Virginie eating falafel sandwiches in Mahane Yehuda Market

Sophie, Alice and Virginie eating falafel sandwiches in Mahane Yehuda Market

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In Yad Vashem: understanding the Shoah

On Friday morning, we took the tramway to go to Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

We arrived in front of a very modern building made of concrete and built in 1953. It is located in a mediterranean garden. The place looks very quiet from the outside, but inside it is full of tourists! Most of them are visiting in groups, with a guide. They are from all over the world.

We entered the museum. It tells the story of the Shoah (the Hewbrew word for Holocaust). It begins with anti-Semitism in Europe, continues with the rising of Hitler, the first Jewish ghettoes, the death camps, and finally the liberation. Most of us already knew this history, but here it is very well presented: it swhow objects, posters, books, maps, archive movies, and video testimonies from people who lived during this period.

The museum itself has a special architecture: it is made of relatively small rooms, around a long corridor with an open ceiling. So visitors follow a zigzag path, from dark rooms to a very sunny corridor, like a breath of fresh air.

Yad Vashem, the corridor

Yad Vashem, the corridor

At the end of the museum, we entered the Hall of names. It is a round room. There are pictures of people on the ceiling, and a hole with water on the floor. On the walls, there are shelves. On each shelve, there are dozens of files. And in each files, there are Pages of Testimony. A Page of Testimony is written by a relative of a Jew who died during the Holocaust. It contains a name, a picture, and biographical details. Yad Vashem estimates that we still do not have the name of all the people concerned. So since its establishment, its mission has been encouraging people in bearing witness about Shoah’s victims they know. The Hall of names is very impressive, because you can realize how much people died, and how much remains unknown (a lot of shelves are empty).

Yad vashem, the Hall of names

Yad vashem, the Hall of names

In another building, there is the Children’s memorial, in the memory of all the children who died during the war. Visitors enter a very dark room, illuminated with a great number of small lights. They hear a voice saying the name of the children.

This visit in Yad Vashem was very moving for all of us. When we went out of the museum, the blinding sun contrasted with the hard images we had seen inside.

The view from Yad Vashem

The view from Yad Vashem

Yad Vashem, the outside

Yad Vashem, the outside

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The Dead Sea experience: we have floated!

On Thursday, we left Tel Aviv. We were a little bit sad, because we were almost feeling like home in the city. We took the mini bus to go to the Dead Sea.

We had a first stop in En Gedi national park. It’s precisely in the middle of a desert. It’s hot, sunny, with almost no trees. After walking during one hour, we discovered some springs and an amazing view on the Dead Sea and the lanscape around.

The Innovators Nation Team, En Gedi National Park, Israel

The Innovators Nation Team, En Gedi National Park, Israel

The Innovators Nation Team, En Gedi National Park, Israel

The Innovators Nation Team, En Gedi National Park, Israel

After a quick lunch, we moved to the Dead Sea Spa. Here are the steps to enjoy this great place and its benefits:

  1. you arrive there and you look at the lanscape. The sun is high in the blue sky, the water is clear, the moutains are sand-colored. It looks like Mars planet.
  2. you dress up with your bathing suit.
  3. you take a little train from the Spa building to the beach.
  4. to enter into the sea.
  5. and you FLOAT!
  6. you accidentally put some water in your eyes. It’s so salted it burns, ouch…
  7. you go out of the water, and put a lot of mud (rich in mineral and salt) on your body, your face and your hair. You look like Shrek but it’s so funny.
  8. you wait until it gets dry.
  9. you take a shower and remove all the mud.
  10. You have a baby skin: so soft!
The team on the road to the beach

The team on the road to the beach

Innovators Nation floating in the Dead Sea!

Innovators Nation floating in the Dead Sea!

Finally, we all jumped into the bus and slept during the way back to Jerusalem.

Dead Sea mud: yummy!

Dead Sea mud: yummy!

The muddy Innovators Nation Team, Dead Sea, Israel

The muddy Innovators Nation Team, Dead Sea, Israel

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Weizmann Institute: paradise for scientists

Scientific research in Israel: specific effort for the commercialization of scientific inventions

J-3. It was after meeting with entrepreneurs in the incubator in Nazareth NGT and tasted the food through the famous Israeli hummus that we visited the Weizmann Institute.

At Weizmann Institute

At Weizmann Institute

Weizmann is its founder’s name. Who is Mr Weizmann, the founder of the university? Mr. Weizmann was the first president of Israel. He promoted many innovations by giving a vision and taking actions. He is considered one of the founders of biotechnology.

inside the Weizmann Institute

inside the Weizmann Institute

the Innovators Nation team in the stairs, Weizmann house

the Innovators Nation team in the stairs, Weizmann house


The essential role of basic research to innovation

Located not far from Tel Aviv at Rehovot, the university dedicated to research is famous worldwide. To begin our visit, we had to go through the huge campus that is quite similar to US counterparts. In the most recent building, the Koffler accelerator, we realized that here science is a main concern. In the center of cancer research and genetics, we met Dr. Daniela Novick.

Then the heart of the building is a dream laboratory: freshly cleaned glassware, experiments in progress, ovens everywhere. In this atmosphere, Dr. Novick told us about her research. We learned how this brilliant scientist has fostered both fundamental and applied science. Compared to other institutes in the world, this is the major distinction of the Weizmann Institute, the emphasis is primarily focused on basic research, scientists are free to explore areas of interest. This is the curiosity of researchers that led to major discoveries in science.  These results led to applications for the general public that were not expected. Without basic research inventions like the microwave or pace makers could not have been launched.

Science is an integral part of the Israel  common thinking and is highly valued. Scientists are very well known and well perceived in society. The Weizmann Institute seeks to get still closer contact between scientists and the general public. This initiative is a good example: on March 30th, 2012, scientists will explain in many cafes in Tel Aviv their science projects to Israeli citizens.

The ability to commercialize scientific discoveries

The discoveries, resulst of basic research, are subsequently commercialized. In this field, the Technology Transfer Office plays an important role. Composed mainly of lawyers, they assist scientists in protecting their inventions and license sales.

The mindset of innovators in Israel

When asked about particular Israeli behavior that are conducive to the emergence of innovations, his answer is simple:

  • Improvising always-Never be paralyzed by the rules, invent alternatives
  • Stay focus of research is paramount, we must not turn away from the main purpose
  • Invest heart and soul – the experiments are not waiting, work on weekends is sometimes required

A little paradise

All the scientist can live in theur own villa on the center. The place is very nice: gardens, modern buildings, labs, museums, etc. We also visited the house of Mr Weizmann, founder of the institute, built in the ’30. A very modern building, full of souvenirs, in a beautiful garden.

Wiezmann house

Wiezmann house

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A quick visit of Nazareth: the Basilica of the Annunciation

After visiting NGT incubator, as we had some time left before leaving Nazareth, we decided to visit the city center. It is divided into two parts: one Jewish and one Arabic, where all the Arabic and Christian people from all over the world come to see the Basilica of the Annunciation. The church was established at the site where, according to catholic tradition, the Annunciation took place: this event is the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus. The church looks very modern and inside it, you can see the cavern of the Jesus family. Visiting this sacred place was something very special for some of the students that heard the story of Annunciation since always. A unique experience!

the Annunciation cave, Nazareth

the Annunciation cave, Nazareth

in the basilica, Nazareth

in the basilica, Nazareth

The Annunciation, Nazareth

The Annunciation, Nazareth

Be careful girls! Don’t come there dressed with a skirt. Our lovely Virginie wasn’t allowed to enter the church… So sad!

To finish the visit of the city, we ate the specialty of the country: hummus! It was suuuper good, tasty and creamy, with meat or egg, served with a fresh salad and lemonade to drink. The restaurant even offers any extra plate of hummus that you order. The winner of the contest “biggest eater” ate 12 plates like this! Not for us today…

Hummus

Hummus

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