Meeting with Netanyahu highlights MIT Sloan School of Management MBAs' first-ever student trek to the Middle East

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., March 28, 2005 — Forty MBA students from the MIT Sloan School of Management met with Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu along with other leading Israeli government and business officials during the first-ever student trek to the Middle East the week of March 19 through March 27, 2005.

Organized by MIT Sloan Israeli Business Club, trek participants traveled to Israel during their spring break to gain a deeper understanding into the dynamic Israeli economy and the challenges and opportunities presented by recent developments in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The meeting with Netanyahu highlighted the nine-day trek. Despite being locked in a battle over the fiscal 2005 budget, former Israeli prime minister and MIT Sloan alumnus Netanyahu broke away from the proceedings with the Israeli Parliament to chat with the students about his recent efforts to reduce taxes while reigning in government spending in response to Israel's recession in 2003.

A day earlier the group met with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry Trade and Labor Ehud Olmert who discussed, among other things, how Israel has been using economic cooperation as a means of strengthening ties with its Arab neighbors. Olmert referred to the successful formation of Qualified Industrial Zones with Jordan and the upcoming formation of similar efforts with Egypt. Other government officials that met with the students were Ami Ayalon, former head of the Israeli Security Service “Shin Bet” and co-founder of The People's Voice Peace Initiative; and Major General Ya'akov Amidror, former head of Israeli Defense Force's National Defense College and its research and assessment division.

Topping the list of CEOs meetings was Gil Shwed, President and CEO of Checkpoint Software Technologies, the world's largest Internet security firm, counting 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies among its client base. Shwed met with the students to discuss the challenges of managing a global company from Israel. The students also met with business leaders at Teva Pharmaceuticals, the second largest generic drug manufacturer in the world, and M-Systems, developer and producer of Flash memory technology used in virtually every digital camera sold around the world.

“We had learned before the trip that despite being home to a population of only seven million, Israel's 70 companies listed on the NASDAQ were the most from any country outside North America,” said MIT Sloan student Fernando Tome. “This is difficult to comprehend until one actually visits the country and experiences firsthand the cultural emphasis Israelis place on higher education, creativity and entrepreneurship. It is truly amazing.”

The students also carved out time to visit religious and cultural sights in Jerusalem and the Galilee region along with the more traditional spring break activity of sunbathing on the beach in the Red Sea resort town of Eilat.

Oren Kassif, a native of Israel currently residing in Cambridge and a co-organizer of the trek said, “Organizing the trip was certainly one of the most challenging efforts I've undertaken at MIT Sloan. But being able to bring so many of my friends to my homeland has definitely been satisfying.”

For over 50 years, the MIT Sloan School of Management, based in Cambridge, Mass., has been one of the world's leading academic sources of innovation in management theory and practice. With students from more than sixty countries, it develops effective, innovative, and principled leaders who advance the global economy.

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