Highlights: ATS Expedition to Spain and Israel

June 17, 2013
By: Jennifer Frey

Thirty-eight ATS supporters from across the nation participated in the Expedition to Spain and Israel, which traveled to Madrid, Toledo and Segovia, as well as to Israel and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. The 12-day trip (May 26 June 7) was led by co-chairs Jeffrey Cosiol, Ana Zadoff and Nancy Aronson.

“To travel through Spain learning history and then to arrive at the Technion is literally jumping from the past not just to the present but looking ahead to the future,” says Ms. Aronson. “Touring laboratories, visiting high-tech companies, and hearing from professors is exciting, but interacting with the students validated for each of us why we were there and why we do what we do for the Technion.”

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The Expedition began in Madrid with speaker programs and guided tours by ATS scholar-in-residence Jonathan Ray, the Samuel Eig Associate Professor of Jewish Studies at Georgetown University, who specializes in medieval and early modern Sephardic Jewry. The Jews in Spain thrived until their persecution and expulsion during the Spanish Inquisition in the 14th century. They have gradually returned, and with the recent repatriation of Sephardic Jews, the culture in Madrid is flourishing.

In Madrid, the Expedition visited the Royal Palace, residence of the Kings of Spain from the 18th century to the early 1900s, the Museo del Prado and the Beth Yaacov Synagogue. They met with members of Madrid’s Jewish community and with Alon Bar, Israeli Ambassador to Spain, who spoke about Israeli innovation and its relevance to Spain. A highlight was the program with Spain’s Minister of Justice at Casa Sefarad-Israel.

In Toledo and Segovia, both designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, participants toured the museums, cathedrals and synagogues of the historic Jewish quarters. In an effort to recover their lost cultural heritage, plans are underway to restore many of those sites and to create cultural centers devoted to understanding the Sephardic legacy.

As the Medieval Jews migrated from Spain to Israel, so did the Expedition. They visited the mosaic excavations at Zipori National Park in the Galilee and enjoyed a traditional Druze meal near Caesarea, then moved on to the most anticipated part of the trip: the Technion. Students led small groups through the campus, stopping at the Lokey Park nature preserve, the Guardian Walls, the Stanley Shalom Zielony Student Union and other ATS-supported spots. Participants learned about the International School of Engineering from Professor Arnon Bentur, head of the Technion International School of Engineering, and were given a tour of a medical lab by Professor Eliezer Shalev, dean of the Faculty of Medicine.

Day 2 took the group from the labs to the marketplace. They heard from Benjamin Soffer, manager of the Technion Technology Transfer Office, and visited biomedical startups developed at the Alfred Mann Institute (AMIT) including Accelta, whose Stem Cell technologies are based on the research of Prof. Joseph Itskovitz-Eldor. At the campus’ Gutwirth Industrial Park, they received exclusive tours of Applied Immune Technologies and NanSpun Technologies by the companies’ CEOs. Off campus, the group visited Technion-connected tech companies at the MATAM and Yokneam Industrial Parks.

Topping off their stay, Expedition-goers participated in a class and a student dance party, before leaving Haifa to spend time in Tel Aviv.

To view photos from the expedition, please click here.