Monday, July 19, 2010

Sabbatical in Tel Aviv

In advance of my upcoming Sabbatical at Tel Aviv University, I just read an incredible book, Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle. Absolutely fascinating. I lived in Israel for five years as a child, and I've been back multiple times, most recently last year, and I am fluent in Hebrew. So, this book resonated very strongly with me. The authors describe how several factors, namely an immigrant population, compulsory military service, enemies all around, and the Arab boycott contributed to the culture in Israel, which in turn resulted in the perfect storm for successful entrepreneurship. I read the whole book in two sittings - couldn't put it down.

After reading Start-up Nation, I'm even more excited about my upcoming trip. I plan on trying to post regularly about the year in Israel, both the professional and the personal and cultural aspects, for the duration of the Sabbatical. As far as research goes, I will be working on several fronts. At Tel Aviv University, I will be a Fulbright Scholar, and I plan to research security issues in electronic medical records. I have some contacts at Maccabi, which is the largest HMO in Israel, and I hope to collaborate with them on some of my work. My hosts are Avishai Wool and Ran Canetti, and I'm hopeful for some productive collaborations with them. In particular, Avishai has been working on electronic voting security, a subject near and dear to my heart. I also have two new grants at Johns Hopkins related to different aspects of healthcare IT security, and I plan on continuing these projects remotely using Skype, iChat, phone and email with my students and collaborators back home. Finally, I'm hoping to find some Israeli clients for ISE.

On the personal front, we will be living in Ramat Aviv Gimel, a neighborhood on the NorthWest corner of Tel Aviv. The kids are enrolled in a public school there, and so they will have to catch up in Hebrew. I'm sure it will be a great challenge for them, but I believe they will pick it up quickly, given their language base from Krieger-Schechter. All three of them can read and write in Hebrew, and I think despite what they are saying, they are pretty excited about next year. Ann is planning on studying Hebrew at an Ulpan and continuing to do ISE's legal work remotely. These days, she is busy packing up the house and getting it ready for our renters.

I plan to walk to work every day. It's about a 25 minute walk according to online maps, and I may decide to get a bicycle. I'm looking for a complete change of environment. Here I live in a suburban, almost country setting and drive 30 minutes to work. Nothing is within walking distance, or even less than a 15 minute drive from my house. In Ramat Aviv Gimel, or just "Gimel" as I understand they call it, I will be around the corner from a shopping center, two blocks from a large gym and sports facility, 3 blocks from the kids' school, and I'll have a choice of several different supermarkets within easy walking distance. We're 15 minutes walk to the beach, and again, walking distance to work. City life for a year! I'm sure I'll be more than ready to return to our peaceful lives here, and knowing that is waiting for us will help during the times I feel suffocated by the big city.

During vacations, we plan on touring every corner of the country, and hopefully, I'll have a chance to sail in the Mediterranean. There's a big marina in Herzeliya, which is about 15 minutes away by car. I'll try to find a regular soccer team to play on, and hopefully there's a poker scene in Tel Aviv where I can unload some of my hard earned shekels. We also expect to host quite a number of visitors, and several slots on the calendar are already taken. That's part of the fun of being in Israel.

So, the countdown on our blackboard in the kitchen now reads 28. Four weeks from today we take off, and I cannot wait!