For going on 25 years, Conexx: America Israel Business Connector has taken delegations to Israel for a close-up view of cutting-edge business innovations, so when I was offered a chance to accompany this month’s expedition, I was intrigued.

With an impressive list of attendees and stops Nov. 5 to 10, we at the AJT thought this trip would make for compelling reporting and bring us closer to what makes Israel the Start-Up Nation.

Past Conexx delegations focused on specific industries and regions, but this trip will stop all over the country to study sectors ranging from cybersecurity and e-commerce to medical tech and neuroscience.

I sent a questionnaire to the 15 other members of the delegation who aren’t Conexx staff, and I was surprised at some of the responses.

I assumed most of the attendees, who include a former CEO of Invesco, the director of IT infrastructure at Virtual Citadel and four high-ranking faculty members from Georgia State University, had never been to Israel. Instead, most have been multiple times and are well aware of the array of business opportunities Israel offers.

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Click here to view the full trip itinerary

None of the delegation members seems excited about seeing the Old City of Jerusalem, hitting Tel Aviv’s beaches or eating Mediterranean cuisine. Instead, their responses mentioned investing in Israeli companies, learning about disruptive Israeli industries and using the opportunity to network.

The trip highlights include:

  • The Shafdan Mekorot wastewater treatment and reuse facility, which was chosen by the United Nations as one of the 30 leading projects demonstrating innovative approaches to environmental problems.

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    The Shafdan Mekorot wastewater treatment and reuse facility.

  • The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, where we will learn about institute scientists’ contributions in brain research, innovative drugs, physics and biology and will hear about an initiative to advance women in science.
  • Mobileye in Jerusalem, a world leader in transportation automation technologies, where we will learn about the next generation of autonomous vehicles and Mobileye’s partnerships with BMW, Intel and others.
  • A networking reception in Jerusalem with city officials and businesses.
  • The Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, which serves as a hospital and research center for northern Israel, where we will witness the innovations in emergency preparedness.
  • A meeting with Avishag Bohbot of Founders Group, a mix of angel investors from various fields united by the belief that the founder should be the center of any successful company.
  • The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, where we will meet with officials, venture capital bankers and corporate executives, including the exchange’s chairman of the board, Amnon Neubach.

It’s going to be a whirlwind six days, and although it will be my fourth trip to Israel, it will be worlds apart from my most recent visit three years ago, when I competed in the 19th World Maccabiah Games for the U.S. rugby squad.

I think I’ll come away from this trip with fewer scrapes and bruises and more insight into the business side of Israel.

We are lucky to have an organization such as Conexx in our back yard, facilitating and promoting business connections with Israel, and I look forward to getting a view of that process firsthand.

I’ll be posting daily trip updates, videos, photos and interviews on our website (atlantajewishtimes.com) and to our social media accounts with the hashtag #Conexxmission16.

The Lineup

The delegation for this Israel trip includes 14 professionals from Georgia, one from South Carolina, and three employees of Conexx, including Guy Tessler, the organization’s president:

  • Jorge Fernandez, vice president of global commerce, Metro Atlanta Chamber.
  • Ben Fink, Conexx chairman, business and employment litigator, Berman Fink Van Horn.
  • Mark Spiegel, wealth adviser and senior vice president, UBS Global Asset Management.
  • Greg Kirsch, partner and head of intellectual property, Smith Gambrel & Russell.
  • Shannon Pierce, founder, CareCam Health Systems (South Carolina).
  • David Cole, vice president of brokerage and site selection data center, digital media, and special operations facilities, NAI Brannen Goddard.
  • Dexter Caffey, founder, Caffey Investment Group.

    Conexx President Guy Tessler.

    Conexx President Guy Tessler.

  • Alla Tsitsior, director of IT infrastructure, Virtual Citadel.
  • Geert de Vries, director, Georgia State University Neuroscience Institute.
  • Shari Neumann, director of brand center, Georgia-Pacific.
  • Julia Hillard, professor and director, Viral Immunology Center, Georgia State University.
  • Binghe Wang, regents professor and associate dean for natural and computational sciences, Georgia State University.
  • Timothy Denning, associate professor, Center for Inflammation Immunity & Infection, Georgia State University.
  • Frank Bishop, advisory board at FotoIn Mobile and former CEO of Invesco, venture capital and private equity.
  • Tal Ovadia, head of the Israel desk, Tel Aviv, Habif, Arogeti & Wynne.
  • Guy Tessler, president, Conexx.
  • Bracha Shlomo, Israel representative, Conexx.
  • Orna Sharon, business development, Conexx.