Nineteen Chinese students, each of whom achieved top scores in competitive tests, had an opportunity to visit Israel for ten days of science, sight-seeing and fun. They were hosted by the Weizmann Institute of Science, where they participated in a camp for science lovers called Smart-Up Camp. This camp is the initiative of the Israeli firm Shirat Enterprises Ltd., together with two Chinese companies: Anhui Youth Magazine for Extensive Reading, which publishes a popular science magazine for youth, and WanXin Media, which deals with digital publishing and education.
Shirat Enterprises helps develop partnerships between Israeli technology firms and China, with the assistance of the Chinese government. Its president and founder, Eliezer Manor, sees the camp as a positive way to strengthen the ties between Israel and China. “In addition to the allure of the science, we wanted to give them some exposure to the Israeli experience,” he said. “We wanted them to meet other teens from all the social strata and groups of Israeli’s society.” Manor, himself, participated in the Institute’s very first science camp, and he says this experience led him to study physics at the Institute and to involve himself, over the years, in various educational projects.
In addition to visits to Institute labs, the camp offered the students workshops in robotics, electricity and marine biology. They had tours of the marine research station at Michmoret; an experimental marine science/art lab at Kibbutz Ein Shemer; and the cities of Tel Aviv and Rehovot, where meetings were arranged for them with other science lovers. The teens, whose visit overlapped with the Israel-Gaza conflict, also got a taste of Israeli life they had not bargained for: occasional air raid sirens and bomb shelters. The Chinese students took this in stride, one of them saying: “I am not afraid. I would like to see the rockets, but I know that it’s not really allowed.”
Prof. Irit Sagi, Dean of the Feinberg Graduate School, helped open the camp. She said: "We believe that the two nations are very close in terms of their culture and dedication to science. We are looking forward to extending this collaboration and relationship on all levels – to exchange students, postdocs and researchers between China and Israel."
Smart-Up Camp is the first of three events planned to mark the 50th anniversary of the science camps and youth activities at the Weizmann Institute. The next two, slated for September-October, will focus on the history. Alumni from all the summers of the camp will get together at the first, and the second will involve a trip down memory lane as people tell their stories in the annual Israeli story-telling festival. The camp alumni also intend to establish an organization that will encourage young people to study science or choose careers in technology entrepreneurship, so as to help maintain Israel’s status as the “start-up nation.”