Emily Levy ’16 views Israel as a startup nation. So when looking for a summer internship that would combine the challenges of entrepreneurship with interna-tional travel, Levy contacted the Boston office of Onward Israel to help her find a job in the Middle Eastern country.
Levy was placed at Veems, an emerging app firm in Haifa, a city in northern Israel. Veems offers an interactive photo-sharing app that lets users add four-second sound bites to images. Being an avid user of social media, Levy leveraged her personal experience when taking on the company’s social media endeavors as part of her marketing role. To show users how the app works, she would create and post “Veems” to the company’s site. She says, “I had to set an example of what a good Veems is and keep in mind that my work would be viewed as a model for this new technology.”
Falling in line with Levy’s desire to travel, the Onward Israel program balances a four-day workweek with group trips on Wednesdays. The students went to such places as the Negev desert, where they learned about sustainable agriculture, and the Syrian border, where they visited farms. On weekends, she and friends toured Haifa and cities such as Jerusalem and Tzfat (also known as Safed), the home of kabbalah or Jewish mysticism. Levy says she was overwhelmed with the historical and multicultural significance of these holy cities as well as their beauty.
Soon after her arrival in Israel, fighting broke out in the southern part of the country, and the situation worsened when the bodies of three abducted Israeli teenagers were discovered in the West Bank. Shortly before that tragic turn of events, the students traveled to Sderot, a city overlooking the Gaza Strip. “We visited the media center and met people who talked to us about the challenges of living on the border, about living in constant fear,” she says. “Many people there live in kibbutzim and are refugees themselves, having come to Israel for a better life. We learned about the Iron Dome defense technology and saw day care centers and soccer fields—all with bomb shelters. We learned a lot, but most of us would have liked to have heard the perspective of people who live in Gaza, too.”
Due to the escalating violence, Levy cut her stay short and left in late July. But her boss not only said she could finish the internship remotely, he also hired her to continue marketing for Veems. To accommodate the seven-hour time difference between Israel and the U.S., Levy scheduled afternoon classes so she can work in the morning.
Levy’s internship has inspired her to start her own company one day. She says, “Going to Israel and working at a startup has empowered me. It made me feel I could do this, too,” she says. “The prevailing attitude I encountered was no matter what challenges you face, you have to live your life, follow your dreams and goals.” —Sharman Andersen