Israeli billionaire Stef Wertheimer, founder of toolmaker Iscar, has invested millions of his own money in his vision of peace: Israeli and Arab industry. He believes that manufacturing- and skills-driven wealth creation will make differences between people seem less important.
Wertheimer’s most recent project is an industrial park in Nazareth; currently employed there are 300 Arab and Jewish workers, but that number is expected to climb to 1,000 over the next five years. This is his seventh industrial park, and his sixth in Israel. The remaining park is located just outside Istanbul in Turkey, and is the only one in which a local partner also invested funds.
“At the moment both sides are afraid of each other and don’t see their future clearly,” Wertheimer said. “The solution is to switch the focus from fear to success. Achievements in successful export industries, which need highly skilled people, can create an area as flourishing as South Korea and Singapore.”
Wertheimer points out that export development is not something this region is known for, and is a field in which there is a lot of potential for growth. His first industrial park, Tefen, was built around the successful Iscar company, and is now responsible for about 10% of all Israeli exports.
The Wertheimer family recently sold the remaining 20% of Iscar still under its control to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc, which had previously bought the other 80%. According to Wetheimer, he agreed to sell only after Buffett guaranteed that Iscar’s Israeli jobs would stay in Israel.
“We made an agreement from the beginning … that Iscar would continue to grow, which was my biggest worry,” he said. “I got a promise from Mr. Buffett that he will make all efforts for us to continue because my job is to make jobs and make peace.”