The Birthright Excel 2020 summer program concluded this week with a special broadcast directly from Birthright Israel’s Innovation Center at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange building.

Zohar Zisapel, prominent Israeli entrepreneur and president of the Rad-Bynet Group, and Yoram Tietz, managing partner at Ernst&Young (E.Y.) and chairman of Birthright Excel, led the discussion.

“Despite COVID-19 and this year’s fellows being unable to arrive to Israel, the 2020 cohort of Excel took part in a virtual 10-week program with both the educational and internship components of the program taking place online (including internships for Deloitte, Viola Credit, Mobileye, Lemonade and E.Y.),” the organization said in a statement.”Fellows participated in lectures by professionals from all sectors of Israeli society, workshops and leadership training, and weekend activities beyond the boardroom. It was in fact one of the very few internship programs for non-Israelis in Israeli companies that were not canceled due to COVID-19.”

According to Birthright Israel CEO Gidi Mark, the event marked the end of “one of the most prestigious summer programs in the Jewish world, which will be remembered as our first virtual program. This privilege and honor comes with a commitment.”

Mark had the following message to participants in the Zoom meeting: “We trust you to act, influence, succeed and be business leaders investing in their community and in Israel.”

Tietz agreed, saying, “Alongside business-doing there is always room for being involved in society and the community. This is the best way, in my opinion, to make a true impact, and I believe it will also serve your professional career.”

When asked about the global pandemic and its effect on Israel’s technology sector, Zisapel said: “COVID-19 is an opportunity. You must remember that every change is an opportunity. And COVID-19 is the biggest change I have seen in my lifetime. I ask you to not be bothered by what COVID-19 has done, but think about what you can do to COVID-19. This is the time for innovation, initiative and entrepreneurship, and I am sure you all have what it takes to succeed.”

Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, the project’s largest ‎donors, have donated hundreds of millions of dollars to Taglit-Birthright so far. ‎Dr. Miriam Adelson is the publisher of Israel Hayom. The Adelson family owns the company that is the primary shareholder in Israel Hayom.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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