Commtouch Company Outing May 2008

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As I mentioned in my previous post, the Israeli Commtouch team took a daytrip last week to the Sea of Galilee (aka Kinneret) for some food, fun, and above all, bonding. Some new folks have joined the team over the past several months, and there is nothing like a dusty hike, combined with tasty meals and hanging out on the beach to allow people to get to know each other, and form a group that works well together. Israeli companies believe in this concept strongly, and most hi-tech companies will take at least one annual trip, along the lines of the one described here (some will be less challenging physically, more like a day at the spa…hmmm, a thought for next year :), and the bigger companies may divide into smaller groups for a more intimate bonding experience.

In American terms: think Company picnic on steroids, since it’s an all-day affair, multi-part activities, and no softball, but plenty of other things to take its place.

Since we left Netanya at around 8 am, of course the first stop was breakfast, which we ate in the picturesque restaurant at the Binyamina Winery. A delicious dairy breakfast, followed by a short wine-tasting session, got us off to the right start.

 

We then got back in the bus and got our hiking shoes on, to take on the treacherous cliffs of Mt. Arbel. We hiked down the southern side of the mountain, which is so steep it has metal handholds driven into the rock to enable us mere mortals to climb down. The view was gorgeous, and the whole invigorating experience lasted just under two hours. Natural caves were visible throughout the climb, the same caves where the Hasmoneans hid during the Roman conquest, according to the historian Josephus Flavius.

Take a look at these breathtaking photos (luckily I had help taking pics since shortly into the hike I had to concentrate very closely where I was putting both hands & feet).

 

As if that weren’t enough, we then — covered in dust and with leg muscles just starting to give a hint of the soreness to come — headed to the Dugit beach, where we had a barbecue lunch (no photos – we were too busy stuffing our faces), followed by the first of several team challenges. This first assignment was to divide into two opposing teams, each of which has to build a raft (hey, we build email defense technology, so why not a raft?) and paddle out to a marked spot in the water, turn around, and then take the raft apart. The materials on hand for building included: barrels, long wooden poles, wooden pallets, and lots and lots of rope. Oh yes, we also had a not-very-sharp knife to cut the rope into appropriate lengths, and then to cut apart the raft at the end. The great race comes across better in pictures, so… enjoy:

 

Then after the rafts (known as “raphsoda” in Hebrew – sounds more enchanting, no?), we walked over to the “Challenge College” (aka “Wild Outdoor Training” in English) which for anyone who has done ropes courses at summer camp, or team building activities in school/work, will look familiar. However I have done lots of these types of workshops in the past, and many of the activities the organizers selected to do with us were new to me (ok, we did have to cross the poison river by swinging on a rope, but the rest were new to me). The activities were fun, challenging for the mind – in most cases the solution was harder to figure out than to actually implement.

 

Since I was participating in a group myself, I couldn’t break away to observe all the other groups as much as I’d have liked, but a couple visuals stood out:

  • VP R&D Ohad Sheory hanging upside down and crawling to the end of a horizontal wooden pole (being held on the other end by a couple members of his team) to grab a bottle of water from out of the “shark-infested” sea, without touching the ground; sounds complicated – the picture may help explain
  • CEO Gideon Mantel pulling an extremely heavy mast with a single rope, while the rest of the team hold it vertical and on course with other ropes
  • Business Development manager Shlomo Levy not taking no for an answer on one of the (IMO) hardest assignments, which involved him balancing on a barrel, to move it a distance of around 4 m (12 ft) – maybe more – while carrying his end of a huge, heavy, wooden pole. Possibly there is an easier way to accomplish this mission, but we were just happy we were able to do it, and it definitely wouldn’t have happened without Shlomo.

There are dozens more moments like this, but this post would be too long & self-indulgent to recapture them all. Suffice it to say we had a great time, and didn’t finish the package of bandaids we brought with us (although did use a good number of them for various & sundry small injuries and blisters). In between things we had time to dip in the water, to play a few games of backgammon, and even relax a bit in the shade.

And of course, after expending all that energy, we wrapped up the day with another meal, before heading back, the better part of exhausted, to Netanya and then home, for a hot shower and bed (well, some of us addicts did check our email first…;).

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