When people talk about the Start-Up Nation, they are typically referring to the popular 2009 book by Dan Senor and Saul Singer that examines how one little nation has managed to be at the forefront of so much economic and technological progress. It’s a book about the professional community and about how Israel’s make-up, including army obligations, have created these miraculous accomplishments.
But I’m watching the Start-Up Nation right now – and it’s taking the form of 46 recent high school graduates. My oldest son set out last week with 45 of his closest friends on a four day graduation celebration. This celebration was not sponsored or organized or paid for by the school. But the 46 of them – every single kid from their graduating class – went away together for three nights.
I haven’t had a high school senior in any other country or at any other time, so I’m not making comparisons to what 18 year old boys do elsewhere. But I’m mesmerized by what these kids are doing. For months, they have been working individually and as a group to collect the 45,000 shekel they decided they need for this trip. They each gave 700 shekel to the cause, and they have collectively spent nights as waiters, working to raise the rest of the money.
Three kids (including my son) were responsible for the logistics, accommodations and fun, while another three kids were in charge of food. On the first day, they were picked up in Gush Etzion by a hired bus and then went to central locations throughout the country picking up their friends. They started at iJump and then arranged to rent a restaurant for themselves with an all-you-can-eat meal at a special price.
They camped in the Golan the first night, getting ready for a big day on Day 2. They awoke early, hiked and swam for the day and then slept at Gushrin, where they arranged to watch the Mondial on a screen usually used for kayaking instructions. Day 3 was filled with a morning paintball war and afternoon rafting on the Jordan.
Day 3 finished at a villa that they rented so that they could watch the Mondial game and enjoy the pool and relaxation. And included cooking 35 kilo of meat (which Matan said took hours and hours by the grill). 35 kilo! When asked if they had salads, vegetables or anything else, the answer was, “No. Meat. Just Meat.”
Day 4 included a morning at AquaKef on the Kinneret, an afternoon relaxing by the water and a trip home.
The kids all pitched in to pay for the activities and all agreed on everything that they did. They had a food budget and organized all of their food and drinks for the four days, in addition to their transportation, their daily activities and their lodging. They also knew which kids had more economic difficulties and quietly ensured that everyone could participate – regardless of economic ability.
If you asked me what the Start-Up Nation means to me – I would point you to these 46 friends; these kids, who are all going off to learn in Yeshivas or to work for a bit before joining the Israeli army; these kids who know how to pool their resources, organize themselves, work together, smile, laugh, plan and love. These guys are the next Start-Up Nation as we look ahead to a bright future for all of us in Israel with them as our future leaders.