Tuesday was probably the most interesting day, which included the group meeting Ehud Olmert, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor. Mr. Olmert has been friendly to VoIP for a long time, and Jeff simply wanted to thank him and show his appreciation for Israel�s contributions to VoIP since its inception 10 years ago. It�s a long way to go to say thanks, but the message was well received.
As circumstances would have it, our meeting with Mr. Olmert was held at the Knesset, which is located in Jersusalem. It felt pretty special entering this building where democracy unfolds for Israel. Our meeting was on the short side, as Mr. Olmert had to take part in a confidence vote being held that afternoon.
So, within minutes of our meeting and shaking hands with him, we are ushered into the Knesset gallery to watch the vote take place, with Mr. Olmert right in the middle of things, flanked by Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu. Talk about two degrees of separation. As with most things in Israeli politics, the vote was evenly split, and no clear consensus on what to do next. The balance of power remained unchanged, so we weren�t witness to history � just another day at the Knesset. Was still pretty worthwhile, though.
Later that evening was the VON Visionary Awards Ceremony at Jerusalem City Hall. This is where plaques were presented by Pulver.com to honor the companies making key contributions to VoIP. A total of 23 recipients were honored from four different companies - VocalTec, AudioCodes, Radvision, and IBM Israel. The ceremony was kicked off by the Mayor of Jerusalem, Uri Lupolianski. So within the course of a day, we kept pretty good company.
Wednesday was the Israel VoIP Summit, which consisted of presentations and panel discussions from a wide variety of leading Israeli IP players. Jeff led off with an overview talking about past, present and future perspectives on VoIP. The most notable idea was Jeff talking about bringing VON to Israel in 2006. That�s a great goodwill gesture, and shows the kind of confidence Jeff has in Israel to remain at the forefront of IP innovation. Next year in Jerusalem� or maybe Tel Aviv!
Other industry perspectives were provided by VocalTec, AudioCodes, Radvision, Jerusalem Capital and eDial, all of whom have a long history with VoIP. Scott Petrack of eDial (and Alcatel) provided particularly good insights about how VoIP has evolved. He also added some candid commentary about how Israeli companies have been very good at engineering products, but less successful at developing and bringing IP services to market. I thought this was a key point, especially in the context of what Israeli companies need to do to stay on leading edge of innovation. The afternoon was rounded out by a series of lively panel sessions on convergence and nextgen technologies.
The events of our trip are well documented it words and images on Jeff�s blog page, including our tourist outings to Masada, the Dead Sea, the historic parts of Jerusalem, and the Knesset. Here�s one shot from Jeff�s photos of our group overlooking old Jerusalem. If you can't view the whole photo, click on June 16 in the calendar in the upper right hand corner of this page. That path will get you the full size picture - apologies to Jonathan Askin, who is on the right side of this photo!