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Israel Tour Report No.3

9. Masada Fortress

In the morning of July 15, we departed the hotel to visit Masada fortress. Masada fortress is built on the top of a steep rocky mountain which is about 500m high from the ground. Since the Dead Sea is 420m below the sea level, the Masada is in fact 55m above the sea level.

Many tourists walk to climb up the slope, we chose to use the rope way. On the top of the mountain, we were able to view all around broadly. This Masada fortress is a very important historic ruin for the Jews because this was the place where the Jews finally ended their fight against Romans and after the fall of the fortress, ancient Israel terminated its history.

As I wrote earlier, the Jews revolted against the Romans around 66AD and Jerusalem, the capitol city of Israel, was completely destructed and ruined in 70AD. Their wars are elaborately described by a Roman /Jewish writer - Josephus Flavius, of the time in his monumental book, Paul L. Maier translation "The New Complete works of JOSEPHUS.” A handful of soldiers and their families who were living in the Masada fortress fought even after the fall of Jerusalem for three years.

The Roman soldiers as many as 100 thousands were deployed around the Masada in 8 major camps. They attempted attacks a number of times using arrows, fire arrows, spears, large stones thrown by big throwing devices, huge stone hummers to destruct fences and walls, and also constructing slopes by piling up rocks so that they could reach the fences of the fortress. The Romans often used Jew hostages to carry and pile up such rocks so that it was difficult for Masada soldiers to attack them. The Jewish soldiers guarding the fortress, nevertheless, fought well to defend themselves against attacks of the Romans as long as 3 years.
Finally, there remained only 960 Jewish in the fortress. Many of them were in fact families of soldiers, namely,women and children. In front of overwhelming power of the Roman corps, the Jewish chief-commander of the fortress decided to cease the battle without surrender, namely, suicide. The soldiers went back to their families and killed wives fearing that they would otherwise be raped and abused, and then killed children fearing that they will be slaves and deprived from freedom. And finally, ten soldiers were selected to kill all the others and after that they committed suicide. All took place in the mid-night. When the Roman commander rushed into the fortress next morning, what he saw was a pile of hand weapons and arrayed dead bodies. This story was told by a few women who miraculously survived the killing in the darkness of the night.

Masada fortress was built by King Herod the Great as a mountain palace in the most luxurious way. It consists of three tiers. The top tier was used for living sectors of officers and families, baths of many kinds, and storage space etc. The construction was made obviously in Roman style, using the most advanced technology and designs. The second tier is a guest house which protrudes at the slope so that guests can enjoy marvelous views. The third tier is the palace, which also has a wide open terrace to overview the whole region below the palace.

Amazing is the fact that quite a few people were able to enjoy their life on the top of the mountain in this very dry area. The most important supply is obviously water, which looks most difficult to secure here. The entire structure is designed so well and delicately that any drops of rain in a year or even the slight dew on the rocks and walls gelled due to changes of temperature can be led together along well designed ditches and pipes to flow into reservoirs so that people living there can always enjoy sufficient supply of water for cooking and baths.
Judaism prescribes that the life of people is determined by the God, which implies that a human cannot terminate his or her own life. Therefore, the suicide committed by the guardians at the fortress of Masada cannot be justified by the rules of Judaism. For this reason, the extra-ordinary contribution of these guardians to protect the honor of their country has not long been officially respected by the Jews. However, their brave actions to protect the honor of the country and freedom from slavery or abuse is recently well respected not only by the Jews but also by many peoples of the world. The legend of Masada became a national Myth, and the saying “Masada-Never Again” became the reason and source of Jewish survival.

10.  Dead Sea

Coming back from Masada fortress, we went to the shore of Dead Sea to enjoy floating on the salty water. As written above, the level of Dead Sea is probably the lowest water level on the earth, which is 420m below the sea level. Because of the limited inflows relative to outflows of water, the surface level of the Dead Sea is said to have been lowered as much as 33m for the last 110 years, and consequently, the density of salt in the water must have risen considerably during the period. Indeed, Dead Sea was divided by a sand spit recently between north and south Dead Sea because of decline of the water level. On the other hand, there are many plants along the seashore which extract various types of minerals for industrial use.

Last time I came here, I found that the salt crystalized at the bottom of the water grew to be the shape of sharp corns and can hurt the foot easily if foot is not protected properly. Learning from this experience, I brought with me this a part of time good sport shoes. Thanks to this protection, I was able to enjoy floating near the shore very much by reading a newspaper on the water.
Having enjoyed Dead Sea and good lunch, we got on the bus to come back to Tel Aviv. Because of a lot of walking, learning, enjoying, and perhaps with exposure to deadly salty water, we all slept like dead on the way back.

11.  Discussion at COMAS

On July 16, we visited in the morning a business college in Tel Aviv, named COMAS(The College of Management Academic Studies).Mr.Elchanan Harel who is member of the board kindly arranged the seminar at this school with professors and some graduate students. This business college is well-known in Israel enrolling as many as 11000 students for developing creative research and providing excellent teaching in business particularly entrepreneurship, leadership and innovation.
The format of the seminar they had proposed to us earlier was a series of lectures by the professors on various subjects relating entrepreneurship, leadership and management education etc and some discussion which will follow the lectures. Since I wanted as much as possible mutual communication and understanding, I sent them a counterproposal to spend full two hours for discussion and squeeze the part of lectures. I was not, however, not quite confident if this ambitious goal of achieving meaningful results through discussions.
We have studied a widely read book Dan Senor & Saul Singer ”Start-up Nations," prior to this trip. The book emphasizes that start ups in Israel is most vigorous. The ratio of business start ups to the size of population is by far the highest in the world. By the way, Japanese business start ups have been low and even declining recently. Many major global corporations, particularly of advanced IT, invest and locate part of their operations in Israel. It seems that Israel emphasizes such business trend as a national brand. The book suggests several reasons why high-tech business start-ups are so vigorous: namely, innovative mind of Israelis, mind-set to seek exit by selling the business once succeed, military experience of handling high-tech weapons and severe training,  government financial support to start-ups, and national crisis consciousness etc. Our question is whether this is an unique feature of Israel, or will it change as time passes, and most importantly if this can be transferable to other countries such as Japan.

I wondered if discussion of Sonjuku members and Israelis professors and researchers can be meaningful to examine and find out any answers to these questions. Except some members who are quite proficient in English, many others are not quite capable in English speaking. However, most of the members have already good experiences in their businesses and have keen interest to think and evaluate, and must make decisions based on their judgement. They are in such businesses as financial investment, real estate finance, whole-sale and consumer services, water purification, tax management of wealthy customers, concierge services and capital transactions, consulting service, IT service for teachers, financial management of publication business etc. It was my hope that the members with this much of variety of experiences will have some issues to pursue meaningfully with Israel professors of business.

The conference started by my introductory remark, particularly to explain the objectives the Sonjuku and why we have come to Israel. Mr.Elchanan Harel spoke next largely to help bridge the Israel-Japan intellectual interactions by first emphasizing similarities of both nations naming it as "J(Japanese)-J(Jewish)" syndrome by pointing to such occasion featuresas perfectionism, emphasis on education, the fact that mother is the center of the family etc. He then proceeded to mention differences such as Japanese groupism vs. Israel individualism, Japanese formality vs. Israel informality etc. His speech put our subjects on a systematic perspective. Then, professor Dafna Kariv gave a short introductory lecture on outstanding features of Israel business particularly in such aspects as remarkable developments in high-tech IT businesses, entrepreneurship, innovations, and management challenges etc, which gave us excellent factual basis on  which to develop our discussion.
Then, we started discussion session. Prof. Oren Kaplan who kindly arranged this whole conference in the past weeks took the role of chairmanship. Prof. Kariv suggested to divide the whole attendants into three groups so that every participant will have opportunity and time to speak up. This suggestion was very helpful for us to enjoy productive discussion with much contributions by every and all of the participants.

The first group one focused on such questions as what kind of hopes Israel young business people have for the future of the country, and what are the reasons behind their inclination to haste exits raised by Japanese participants. Israel professors kindly gave diverse and comprehensive comments.  The second group focussed on such issues as the meaning of "failure" in business career in Israel vis-a-vis Japanese counterparts, and turning point of industrial strategy reflecting historical development of industries and economies. The third group discussed such questions as time horizon of business activities particularly of innovation and exits, and the importance of network.
The discussion went very well and productively. While many of them participate the process of discussion earnestly, the given time was used up. We were under the impression that had we had more time and opportunity the discussion could well have arrived at some concrete business ideas and policy suggestions.

12.  Jaffa
After lunch we went to the old city of Jaffa, which is located south of Tel Aviv. This is an old port city. In the area of ancient Israel, such materials as lumbers and constructive stone were uploaded from this port and carried to the old town of Jerusalem to build the temples. Since this is at a critical strategic location at the east end of Mediterranean sea, this city has been put under control of the rulers of the region such as ancient Jews, Romans, Moslems, British and even Napoleon Bonaparte took control at a time. From 1948, this city has been under control of modern Israel. Archeologists recently evacuated many of the ruins, and found precious remains of buildings, town facilities and even treasures of different historical ages.
The area of Jaffa is rather exceptional in this region to have abundant underground water so that agriculture was well developed. Since the mid 20th century Jewish population started to develop rapidly houses and city facilities to the north of Jaffa and gradually formed the current city of Tel Aviv.

We walked from Jaffa to north along the sea-side. The sun was begning to set, and nice breeze, and the calm sea were so attractive to watch, swim or sail. We then arrived at a restaurant in the woods with open sky. There, Mrs.Elchanan Harel, Tali, joined us. Since this was already almost the end of our visit to Israel, we enjoyed the dinner party till late.

13.   Haim Weizmann Institute

In the morning of July 17, we visited globally famous Haim Weizmann Institute. This is the center of advanced scientific research and education, which enrolls some 2500 scientists including researchers, professors and students. The institute currently covers a wide range of natural sciences such as mathematics, physics, nuclear physics, chemistry, bio-chemistry and other areas. The institute produced many nobel prizers and also many nobel prizers visit and study here from all over the world.
Many buildings of research and teaching facilities are built scattering in a wide space with many woods. Flat spaces among woods are covered well by lower trees of citrous. We walked the tranquil campus being guided by Dr.Judith Heldman, a senior research scholar of bio-chemistry and is a good friend of Mr.Elchanan Harel.

This institute started originally as early as 1934 by the leadership of Dr. Haim Weizmann and his colleague under the different name, and it was renamed as the current name in 1949. Dr.H.Weizman became the first president of the Institute till 1952, the year he passed away.
Dr.H.Weizmann was well known as a world leading scientist as a chemist, but perhaps is also well known as the first president of modern Israel. He was born in Russia and as he grew he spent various stages of his life in different countries as Germany, France and England. He acquired high prestige as a famous scientist in England particurally due to his invention of extracting Acetone from bacteria. Acetone could be used as important components of an explosive. He was well respected in British political community and had friendship with British leaders.

On the other hand, he was increasingly involved at the same time in the ideology and movements of Zionism. He worked increasingly closely with Theodor Herzl, an Austrian born Jew who was the ideological leader of Zionism claiming that the Jews must re-establish their own country. Making use of his fame and friendship with the British, Mr.H.Weizmann worked hard with them to get their support for this movement. In fact, he successfully obtained a declaration in 1917 from Arthur James Balfour, the first Earl of Balfour, known as Balfour declaration which admits the legitimate right of the Jews to build their own country in the area of Palestine. This declaration, however, never realized.

After a bitter and fierce struggle, modern Israel was finally established in 1948 by the declaration of independence by Mr.David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister who stayed in the position for 22 years. In spite of an exceptional contribution by Mr.H.Weizmann to have paved the way for international community to recognize the meaning and importance for the Jews to re-establish their country, even sacrificing the life of his son, an officer of British airforce, during the war, he was excluded from the leaders who signed the independence declaration, suspectedly with implicit confrontation with David Ben-Gurion, and later was given the title of president without substantive political power.
Walking in the campus of the Institute and visiting the Weizmann House located at the end of the campus, I felt a profound sense of respect to this exceptional intellectual leader of Israel, and some painful complex sympathy for his life which was spent for his nation in the most difficult age of modern global history.

14.  The Diamond Exchange of Tel Aviv

In the afternoon, we visited the diamond exchange of Tel Aviv, where the president and chairperson of the board of the exchange, who is a good friend of Mr.Elchanan Harel, welcomed us. The Tel Aviv diamond exchange is now the largest exchange in the world embracing 3400 registered members as contrast to some 2000 of NY exchange.
Diamond is perhaps the most highly valued jewelry. For us to get a diamond, there involves a series of tremendous labor inputs starting from digging and finding from mountains, rivers and from the sea, cutting, polishing and marketing. With this much inputs to get a piece of diamond, no wonder why expensive it is.

The quality of diamond is determined by four Cs: namely, carat, cuts, clarity and color. Each piece of diamond is carefully examined and evaluated against these criteria by skilled and experienced diamond craft man and traded with other traders or consumers with a certificate rigorously written by the examiner. Thus, each piece of diamond has a unique characteristic proven by the certificate not replicable by other diamonds. This is an outstanding feature of diamond in contrast to gold. Besides, diamond is very light and easy to carry and hide.

The Jewish have been dominating this diamond business at least for the last several hundreds years, most likely making maximum use of this feature. The quality of diamond can be certified almost exclusively by the skilled Jewish craftsmen and examiners. In a fatal hardship under suppressions, the holders of diamond can cross the border hiding diamond even among their teeth, and when they escaped from pursuers, they can sell diamond and could get money which could be good enough to support the rest of their lives.
I was particularly interested how proper evaluation and pricing can be made under such circumstances. It must be on the assumption that almost everywhere on the earth, there exist some people who can and will do this job fairly and trustfully. They are the Jews and the Jewish network. I admire the historical effort of Jewish people to develop such skills and network trying hard to live through the long, bitter and painful experience of "diaspora" for almost 19hundreds of years.

15.  Finale

Mr.Elchanan Harel received a request from one of the well read economic newspaper journalists to make an interview with me. After coming back to the hotel, I spent almost two hours answering her questions.
The members of the Sonjuku were already sitting around the table at the side of sea. The sun was setting and they are enjoying the comfortable ocean breeze. They were just waiting for us to join them. Elchanan and myself hurriedly joined them an hour later and a joyful farewell fiesta started. Elchanan asked everyone of them a few words about their trip to Israel. After listening to all the comments from the members, Elchanan said "I welcomed and guided many, many visitors from Japan, but you people are exceptional in your good preparation, sincerity, curiosity and strong will and wish to understand our country."I looked up the sky, an afterglow is already gone, and the moon was shining.


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