With a roster of technology companies numbering in the thousands, and their breakthroughs often making news around the world, Israel has already captured the attention of both scientists and entrepreneurs.

Among those showing the highest interest in the country’s technological achievements and potential for growth in the high-tech sector are American Jewish students pursuing degrees and jobs in the scientific fields. Last week, 35 of them joined their Israeli counterparts for a special Taglit-Birthright Israel trip provided by Mayanot, a Jerusalem-based educational organization perhaps better known for running free tours of the Holy Land filled with young adults recruited by campus-based Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries.

Ayelet Kahane, an Israeli student who frequently acts as a guide and counselor for a host of Birthright trips – which made headlines for bringing hundreds of thousands of Jews aged 18-26 to Israel on free 10-day tours – described the newest program as part of several specialty trips.

“We have Israelis with us the entire time,” said Kahane, pointing to the advantages of the new framework, “not just the four to five days of the regular trips, so there’s more time for everyone to really bond.

“Secondly, I think people just feel that much closer to Israel when they see a little bit of what their lives would be like here on a day to day basis,” continued Kahane. “All of the Birthright trips create important messengers on behalf of Israel, but these trips do so even more.”

The package of specialty trips, which include tours for Jewish lawyers, soldiers from abroad, and young business professionals, comes in response to the sudden passing philanthropist Charles Bronfman’s wife, Andrea, who was struck by a car three years ago in New York.

Samantha Gruskin, a student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, echoed Kahane’s summation.

“I think it is definitely creating a deeper bond,” she said. “One of the female soldiers is my roommate for the trip and speaking to her is adding so much.”

Israelis joining the first high-tech group include two officers in Israel’s Navy as well as soldiers from some of the most elite intelligence-related units. All have chosen to extend their military service past the required three years, and all work in high-tech fields within the military.

Jordan Fried, a student at the University of Buffalo whose grandfather fought in Israel’s War for Independence, described the experience of being on the trip as “very emotional.”

“It is more than getting the history,” he said, “it is a chance to really connect with everyday people.”

Mayanot, which has brought thousands of students to Israel in trips with Chabad Houses and other organizations, was approached by Birthright to plan the high-tech trip and other specialty tours.

Avi Weinstein, director of Mayanot’s Taglit-Birthright Israel trips, noted that Mayanot “has had much success running specialty trips in the past, such as a trip for participants with developmental disabilities, an extreme adventure trip, and trips for law and business students, so it was only natural for Taglit-Birthright Israel to approach us about running a high-tech trip this summer.”

The trip’s itinerary includes a private tour of the Google Center, which one student described as “simply amazing,” a lecture on Judaism and science with noted physicist and author Dr. Gerald Schroeder, a look at the nexus of high-tech and the arts at a Jerusalem animation studio, and a chance to attend a biomedical conference in Tel Aviv.

Remarked Danny Sack, one of the trip coordinators: “This trip really brings together great minds. The Israelis are all in the top tier of the Israel Defense Force, and the Americans are all students in some of America’s best college science programs. It is great for them to have the opportunity to connect.”