Lena Stein, center, with some colleagues studying about Israel’s wine industry.

Israel Innovation Fund internship provides a new outlook for students focusing on culture and art instead of political controversy.

By Lena Stein, jewish@edu writer

This summer, I had an incredible opportunity to intern in Israel. I have been to Israel many times, but the chance to intern with the Israel Innovation Fund (TIIF), a new kind of nonprofit that creates programs to export Israel’s diverse culture, was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

My time interning at TIIF has given me a new way to look at this country — through art and culture rather than political controversy, which is what we are mostly exposed to in America, especially on college campuses.

I believe this specific Israel experience was the most influential trip I’ve been on. I learned so much about myself and the kind of person I want to be. First of all, I got to live in Israel for an entire month as a working member of the community, not just a tourist. I’ve always loved spending time in Israel but being blended into the society by working and celebrating holidays like Yom Ha’zikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut really helped me feel the connection to Israel I was looking to foster during this trip.

On top of that, my internship with TIIF helped me further explore my cultural connection to Israel. I worked primarily as a graphic designer for TIIF; but as an intern, I was brought to all kinds of meetings with Israeli artists, wineries and more. I developed an incredibly close relationship with my supervisor Tatiana and plan to either continue working for her in the future or keep in contact for future visits.

Out of TIIF’s many ventures, Wine on the Vine, its flagship program, which allows people to virtually plant grapevines in top Israeli wineries, was my favorite to work on. I absolutely loved learning about Israel’s vast wine industry, meeting incredible winemakers, having one-on-one conversations with them and, of course, trying all the delicious wines they produce.

I’m very thankful for my experience interning for TIIF and I am looking forward to sharing the beauty of Israel’s culture, particularly its wine industry, with my peers back home.

Lena Stein of Boca Raton, Fla., is a junior at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor studying graphic design and packaging design.

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