In June 1999, the German media entrepreneur and New Media visonary, Hubert Burda initiated the "Center for Innovative Communication" at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, Israel. The Center's mandate was to enable and enhance a European-Israeli as well as an international New Media and High Tech, dialogue and exchange.
The Cool People in the Hot Desert conference was the first major event of the "Hubert Burda Center". The conference was designed by Burda to create a context and a bridge ("Israeli-German Start Up Forum") whereby the leaders of German and Israeli Internet startup companies could meet, and begin to work together, present themselves to the conference's international audience, obtain new contacts and exchange ideas. Co-hosting the conference with Burda was Avishay Braverman, President of the Ben Gurion University and Joseph ("Yossi") Vardi, Founder of Mirabilis/ICQ and international Investor.Forty young German Internet executives arrived in Jerusalem to be greeted by their Israeli counterparts and hear the opening address by former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres before departing the next morning for the Negev.
What brings a Bavarian billionaire to the Israeli desert? A number of years ago, the German newspaper publisher Axel Springer suggested to Burda that the time had come to stop the interminable writing about Germany and its relationship to the Jewish people, and to get on a plane for Israel, and begin working with the Israelis on projects.. For Burda this meant an initial participation in the Jerusalem Foundation. More recently, at the behest of his friend George (Lord) Weidenfeld, he began a relationship with Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, miles from nowhere, where the dynamic University president, Avishay Braverman, is building a world-class university and hopes to turn Beer Sheeva into a major metropolis. The Cool People in the Hot Desert Conference was a major step to putting Ben Gurion on the map as a hi-tech center.
I have never had a great urge to spend time hanging around in the Negev, in fact, I had never been to Israel. But an invitation from Hubert Burda, a man of style, intelligence, and a highly evolved aesthetic sensibility, is reason to drop everything and go. I wasn't dissapointed. It was a wonderful week.
SANDY CLIMAN: The week in the desert was priceless. We touched on much more than the state of technology and the (sorry) state of the financial markets. It was a time of reflection in a distant land which allowed the soul to couple with the mind in trying to grasp clarity of the future. To the credit of the conference, social ramifications of technology and very human issues were balanced against the world of technology-driven business opportunities. We talked about all the good that technology could bring to building infrastructure and a better life for those striving to succeed in developing nations. And we talked about peace... Dancing Dr. Burda and the others in the moonlight of a barren Negev desert to the beautiful voices of young Ethiopian immigrants is a nurturing evening never to be forgotten. These are rare moments.
Yossi Vardi International Technologies
JEAN-PAUL SCHMETZ: It was probably the most enjoyable conference I have ever been to. What struck me most is the fact that we were discussing about building a new economy from scratch (all start-ups are starting from nothing) in a place where someone (Avishay Braverman) is talking about building a huge city/economy in the desert. Somehow, the scope of what we are doing became more tangible if you look at an empty desert and imagine that sometimes in the future this will be a huge metropolis.
|Izumi Aizu, Asia Network Research|
AVISHAY BRAVERMAN: TheCool People in the Hot Desert was very-well named as it stated very clearly what we want to accomplish here. Our vision is to create, in this desert, a center for hi-tech, bio-tech, nano-rech and future-tech that will lead the poorer people who live in this reagion into opportunities for advancement, that will lead the nation of Israel into a more wide-spread development of the vast natural resource of the Negev, which makes up 60% of the land mass, and of course to enable a true Middle-Eastern center for the most advanced in high-tech and communications technologies.
View from Ben Gurion's Gravesite
The Ethiopian Sheeba Choir
Gregory Blatt, Director
World Economic Foum
Jean Paul Schmetz, Cyberlab
ROB FIXMER: In this ancient city of Abraham in the heart of the Negev desert, Avishay Braverman lives in a perpetual state of urgency. On a recent evening, 20 miles from here, the 52-year-old scholar donned Bedouin garb and led 250 visitors from around the globe in dancing to the seductive rhythms of an Ethiopian children's choir amid an open-air festival of food, wine and hookahs in the shadow of Byzantine castle ruins.
"I joke that Tel Aviv is too sexy, Jerusalem too holy for expansion," Braverman says. "Here is the future of Israel, in the Negev, which has 60 percent of the land, but only 7 percent of the people."
He cites demographic projections that Israel will reach a population density equal to Japan's in the next 40 years. Jerusalem's growth is constricted by politics, and Tel Aviv is experiencing dangerously rapid sprawl. Little wonder that Braverman's vision has been a relatively easy sell by Israeli political standards.
But he is equally adept at marketing the dream to business leaders and philanthropists, including German media magnate Hubert Burda, who financed the university's Burda Center for Innovative Communication. Last week, Burda helped burn the center into the consciousness of the world's business and media leaders by hosting an international conference on new-media issues.
View from 'En Gedi Reserve
The Dead Sea
Louis Lewitan & Michael Puettmann: "Hi-tech" and "hi-touch" are the key-words to our future. And that is exactly what our experience in Israel was all about. Young and at young at-heart experts mostly from Israel, Germany and the U.S. got together at the oasis of science, Ben Gurion University in Beer-Sheva, to share ideas, experiences and feelings. The state-of-the-art technology presented in Beer-Sheva creates outstanding opportunities for society and business, and the more Germans and Israelis will work hand-in-hand, the more everybody will benefit from it. But what all of us who had the great joy of participating will never forget are all the cool people we met, the new friends we found, the moving Beduine dinner under the stary Negev sky, the most impressing sightseeing and atmospheric evening gatherings - all made possible by the visionary and generous Dr. Hubert Burda and his great staff.
Lewitan & Puettmann Gesellschaft fuer Managemententwicklung dBR
Near King David's Waterfall
'En Gedi Reserve
The Dead Sea
|Saint George's Monastery||
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
|Wailing Wall||The Dome of the Rock|