Monday, May 24, 2010

Technion University, Bahai Gardens, and Checkpoint Software

Today we packed up and moved out of Haifa Gallery Hotel. Our first stop was at the Bahai Gardens. They were beautiful! The Bahai religion is a religion believes that Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, and other religious figures are all prophets sent to the world to benefit the people of the time. They also had an additional prophet that was exclusionary to them.
Today we packed up and moved out of Haifa Gallery Hotel. Our first stop was at the Bahai Gardens. They were beautiful! The Bahai religion is a religion believes that Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, and other religious figures are all prophets sent to the world to benefit the people of the time. They also had an additional prophet that was exclusionary to them. He was executed by the Iranians in the late 1800s and brought back to Israel many years later in the 1910s. He is now buried in a shrine in the center of the gardens, however it was undergoing renovation while we were there so scaffolding surrounded it. The garden was built in the late 1990s and was completed in 2001. The Bahais have approximately 6 million followers worldwide and are present in almost every country. The statues and plants in the gardens don't have much significance besides beauty. However, there is some architectural significance. The first is all 19 levels have a balcony in the shape of an arc. Those above the shrine are concave and all those below are convex. It gives the allusion from above of circles surrounding the shrine. Also, there were water elements on each level. All of them were connected by a series of small waterfalls lining the staircases. The motive behind the beauty of the garden is that the Bahai believe that people behave like their surroundings. Basically beautiful surroundings create beautiful, happy individuals. There was a museum on one of the upper levels, which housed their religious artifacts from all over the world. You only allowed to enter if you are Bahai. From my understanding, they are welcome to new members, however they don't go around trying to convert people because they realize the sensitivity of the subject. Also, it is illegal to change your religion in Israel. They have a democratic religious leadership where they vote on their leaders every 5 years.

Our next stop was at Technion University. Technion is like the MIT of Israel. I is a very prestigious place to graduate from but as one student said, "we have no free time." They have almost 100 different departments. It is very expensive, however, at $12,000 per year for tuition. Most other universities in Israel charge around $2,000 per year. We had two guest speakers. The first talked to us about The Technion International School of Engineering where they welcome students from all over the world to attend classes that are taught in English. Our next speaker talked to us about Engineers without Borders (EWB). This is an organization with 300 chapters worldwide with over 12,000 members. EWB goes to 3rd world countries and helps supply them with the technology most of us take for granted. One project gives electricity to families. One example he gave us was they recently built solar-powered lights in a cave. Another project was in Nepal where families have wood burning fires in their homes in order to cook but they don't have chimneys to allow the smoke to get out. What EWB built were bio digesters where they basically constructed a tank in the ground that held all different types of manure and let it create methane which could fuel a stove in the middle of a jungle. What EWB tries to do with its projects is to represent social conscience in engineering and give a soul to engineers. They also want to train our engineers to not only be able to design the biggest structures in the world, but to also know how to solve simple problems that plague well over half of the world. Finally, they want to teach students by doing hands on engineering tasks in developing communities.
Our last stop of the day was was at Checkpoint Software. They are the global security leader in global firewalls/VPNs and mobile data encryption. All Fortune 100 companies utilize Checkpoint and they have reached over 60 million users. Some technologies they have developed include programming that stops employees from e-mailing confidential material and a thumb drive that is encrypted to create a virtual bubble separate from the host computer to protect the material. Checkpoint is in contrast to most Israeli companies in that they do things to become bigger, not to get bought. They are the only truly global company in Israel. Our guest speaker at Checkpoint Software believes that the source of Israel's technological success lies in their great education and the fact that all young adults serve in the military.

We have a guest speaker later tonight I'll write about later and I'll post pictures so check back soon.

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