The American citizen killed tragically this week in a terror attack was participating in what has become a growing trend in recent years: faculty-led trips for MBA students eager for a close-up look at the “Startup Nation.”
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Taylor Force, a 29-year-old MBA student at Vanderbilt University, was knifed to death on Tuesday when a Palestinian terrorist went on a rampage on the promenade in Jaffa. Another 11 people were injured before the assailant was shot dead.
Force was part of a group of MBA students participating in a 10-day trip to Israel during their spring break, which included visits to high-tech companies and meeting with Israeli business leaders, along with sightseeing and recreation.
The trip was facilitated by Israel & Co., a New York-based non-profit, which has already brought 7,000 graduate students from abroad to Israel on 200 trips since its inception five years ago.
In a telephone conversation, Gil Galanos, the chief executive, said this was the third trip of Vanderbilt MBA students that his organization had helped initiate. In addition to MBA students, Israel & Co. also facilitates trips for graduate students in law and policy.
Among other universities it works with in the United States are the University of California at Berkeley, Northwestern, UCLA, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania. Israel & Co. has also helped bring graduate students from Europe and Asia to Israel.
“Our model is unique in that we don’t lead the trip ourselves but empower trip leaders – both students and faculty – and connect them with tour operators in Israel who can put together an itinerary to their liking,” said Galanos. Trip leaders often receive funding for their work from the non-profit.
Galanos said that Israel & Co. was funded by private philanthropists, and its mission was to expose up-and-coming world leaders to Israel’s diverse culture and technological prowess.
Following Tuesday night’s terrorist attack, members of the Vanderbilt group cut their trip short and returned home, Galanos reported. He said they had originally been scheduled to leave on Saturday.
Israel & Co. has worked with 60 delegations to travel to Israel in the current academic year. “So far, most of those scheduled to come are still committed, and none have cancelled as of yet,” said Galanos.
“Acts of violence occur everywhere, and we believe that Israel is at least as safe as everywhere else,” he added. “We’ve been in touch with our trip leaders, some of them have questions, and we have every intention of addressing them.”
The typical delegation, he said, consists of 30-45 students, and the spring and summer breaks are usually peak seasons for these trips. Many U.S. universities hold a weeklong spring break in March.