If BDS activists around the world get hold of the book Israeli Innovations – Breakthrough Products that Changed the World, they will have a lot more divesting to do – this time to their own discomfort as they discard products in their possession that have Israeli components or are totally Israeli in concept, content and manufacture.
The bi-lingual book, produced in English and Hebrew by the Ministry of Economy and Industry was released on Sunday at an event at the President’s Residence, where ten giants of Israeli Industry were honored with leadership awards within the framework of Israel’s 70th anniversary celebrations.
Every year the The Ministry for Economy and Industry, in conjunction with the Manufacturers Association and the Israel Export Institute, holds a ceremony at the President’s Residence to present awards to industrialists in categories of different sized companies based on their success in the previous year, but never in living memory has the hall been as crowded as it was on Sunday.
The awards reflected the fact that although women may have broken through the glass ceiling in professions such as medicine, science, law, journalism and even real estate development, they are still lagging in the race to become captains of industry.
Only one of the ten honorees was a woman – Maxine Fassberg, the South African-born former General Manager of Intel Israel, who started out as a school teacher in Jerusalem, moved into high tech and became one of the more prominent figures in the industry.
Fassberg – who stepped down in December 2016 – spoke on behalf of all the honorees, saying that what they had all learned, regardless of the industries in which they had built their careers, was that there is no limit to human capabilities. The honors conferred on them she said, really belonged to all the devoted workers in the various plants, without whom Israeli industry would not be where it is today.
THE FIRST of the honorees called to accept a citation was German-born Israel Prize laureate Stef Wertheimer, 91, who fled the Nazis in 1937 and settled in Tel Aviv. He fought in the British Army against the Nazis, and later joined the Palmah and Hagana. In 1952 he founded Iscar, a small metal shop and tool-making plant which mushroomed into an international cutting tools and blades empire, ultimately purchased by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway holding company for $2 billion in 2006. Wertheimer has built several industrial parks based on co-existence, education, exports, community and culture.
Other honorees included high-tech investor Yossi Vardi; Dan Propper, CEO of the Osem group of companies; Sami Sagol of Keter Plastic, the majority of which was sold in 2016 to BC Partners for 1.4 billion Euros; Yehudas and Zohar Zisapel, founders of RAD Technologies; Giora Ackerstein, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Ackerstein Stone Industries; Nazareth-born Technion graduates Reem and Imad Younis, co-founders of Alpha Omega, a global technological leader in Neuroscience and Functional Neurosurgery equipment; Dr. Shimon Eckhouse, founder of Syneron which develops aesthetic medical devices; and South African-born Morris Kahn, the media-shy billionaire who founded Golden Pages Israel, invested in Amdocs, is part owner of the Aurec Group and has other significant investments. He is also a major philanthropist who has given handsome sums to some 150 institutions and causes.
All are major supporters of projects designed to make the world a better place. Sagol, for example, established a brain research center at Tel Aviv University.
Economics Minister Eli Cohen said that Israel’s industry was one of the foundations of the state and that the dedication, investment and work of industrialists are what built the country and its economy.
President Reuven Rivlin said that new immigrants, native Israelis, Jews and Arabs imbued with blessed Israeli audacity and chutzpah have turned tiny Israel into an industrial, technological and innovative powerhouse.
Despite their diversity, he observed, the industries are linked by a thick cord of responsibility that the industrialists took upon themselves – to create places of employment and to integrate people from all strains of society, to provide for coming generations. “Industry builds a nation,” he said “not only through profitable companies and innovative products, but first and foremost through people.”
Indeed, this was evident in the hall which was packed from wall to wall with proud industrialists who had come to honor their pioneers, and whose sustained applause as each name was called was significantly more than merely being polite.
Also at the event, the Israel Export Institute was replaced by the Israel Innovation Authority.