Stef Wertheimer is one of Israel’s most successful businessmen; he is also a philanthropist, and in the late 1970s and early 1980s he served as a member of Israel’s Knesset.
Chief among Wertheimer’s many enterprises was ISCAR, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of carbide industrial-cutting tools, used by carmakers such as GM and Ford.
In 2006 the company, which Wertheimer founded out of a shack in his backyard in 1952, became the first major international target of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.
Wertheimer sold 80 percent of ISCAR to Buffett that year, and the remaining 20 percent in 2013. (ISCAR is now the leading brand of the company known as International Metalworking, or IMC.)
Wertheimer has built six industrial parks in Israel (and a seventh in Turkey) that provide working space for industrial startups – he has dubbed them “capitalistic kibbutzim.” One contains the innovative Open Museums. These were some of the endeavors for which Wertheimer received the Oslo Business for Peace Award in 2010.
The most recent of Wertheimer’s parks was launched in 2013 in the predominantly Arab city of Nazareth. Situated above the Jezreel Valley, the facility overlooks one of Israel’s greenest landscapes.
An entire floor of one of the buildings is occupied by the telecommunications billing company Amdocs (whose Nazareth workforce is 60 percent Arab and 40 percent Jewish). Other entities in this industrial park are Alpha Omega (manufacturer of instruments for neuroscience) and MEET (Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow).
The park’s opening ceremony was attended by Shimon Peres, who observed: “This is the best statement for coexistence between Jews and Arabs; it is truly significant, not just empty words.”
Wertheimer is a staunch believer that the answer to the region’s problems – the world’s problems – is employment and economic stability for all. “What makes peace?” he says. “The answer is jobs.”
Lin Arison & Diana C. Stoll are the creators of The Desert and the Cities Sing: Discovering Today’s Israel, a treasure box that highlights Israel’s creative achievement and innovation.