Afternoon Tea in Jerusalem Blog

Life in Israel

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Israeli commercial life and society

In addition to my work as a business coach, one of my interests is blogging about life in Israel. This is a country full of contrasts – over eight million citizens living in an area the size of Wales. You can see snow and the lowest place on the globe in the same day. Although surrounded by geopolitical extremes, Israel has achieved a decade of high economic growth. My work brings me in contact with an array of new companies, exciting technologies and dynamic characters. Sitting back with a relaxing cup of strong tea (with milk), you realise just how much there is to appreciate in the Holyland. Large or small operations, private sector or non profit, my clients provide experiences from which others can learn and benefit.

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What Lorde revealed about the Israeli economy

Last week, Lorde, a talented singer from New Zealand, cancelled a trip to Israel, fearing it would be seen as an act that supports the actions of the Israeli government against Palestinians. In an ironical twist, she actually ended up highlighting just how open Israeli society is.

Lorde’s justification of her decision, encouraged by BDS – the campaign which supports a boycott of Israel – is filled with hypocrisy. For example, she is still committed to travelling to Russia, whose leader has sent war planes to massacre thousands in Syria. In fact think about it. Can you imagine artists of any kind refusing to perform in …well let’s say France, because of that country’s policies in parts of Africa? And what about the UK or the USA or……? Hypocrisy!

At the same time that Lorde was speaking out, it emerged that the Israeli economy had grown by 3% in 2017. This achievement lies in parallel with the OECD average for the period. Estimates for 2018 expect a slightly improved result.

Nothing specifically remarkable in that, except when you begin to look at two of the key growth sectors. I shall start with exports, which shot up 5% in the year and topped the significant mark of US$100 billion. Two interesting facts emerged from an analysis of the figures. Israeli companies have made a massive return to the European scene, an area where BDS is historically strong. Second, of that US$100 billion, 3.5% includes items sent to the Palestinian territories.

In other words, the very people that Lorde feels she is helping are doing the opposite to her. They are sticking with the old adage that peace is usually achieved when two sides find a way to cooperate.

The other sector, which I wish to highlight is tourism. 2017 was another boom year for the industry with over 3.6 million overseas visitors to Israel. Over 50% as ever were not Jewish, and nearly 60% were first-time visitors. That is a lot of people not just rejecting the calls of BDS, but then also then sharing their stories back home afterwards. Just as pertinent is the fact that around 200,000 locals are employed directly by the industry, a relative large proportion of whom are not Jewish.

Less than three decades ago, Israel economy was relatively insular, protected by tariffs. Today, it is a start-up success, whose model is copied by France, the UK and others. Artists from all over the world continue to perform in the country, happily and openly, including the group Queen, Bryan Adams, Culture Club. Lorde’s misguided gesture only emphasised these positives, while ensuring that she remains bound up in an argument of hatred.

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