Afternoon Tea in Jerusalem Blog

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.

Israel’s economy will start 2021 with no budget for over two years, a third lockdown (with as many holes as a piece of Swiss cheese) ,and an election looming on March 23rd. That means no full approved central planning will emerge until the early summer at best.

So which politician cares that an extra 100,000 will be added to the unemployment listings because of the lockdown? Which salaried decision maker will feel the impact of a further US$1.5 billion oozing out of the economy?

It is worth quoting serial investor Michael Eisenberg:

Netanyahu did not proactively undermine Israel’s national resilience, he just didn’t do anything about it. Considered one of the most intelligent leaders in the world, Netanyahu failed to take advantage of the immense opportunity to attract future human and financial capital to the country……..The fossilized economic thinking of Bibi’s ministers and advisors is firmly rooted in the 20th century……

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to be part of a forum, led by MATI Jerusalem. There were about 30 business mentors and coaches and a further 6 staff members on the discussion. MATI has been promoting business generation in the Jerusalem area since the late 1980s.

The core take away from the session was definitely one of optimism.

So why can 2021 be a year of opportunity for small businesses in Israel, especially when the government will be providing precious little direction and leadership initially?

And maybe that ‘rudderless’ factor is also part of the answer. Business owners are learning to rely on themselves. After all, the loan schemes and employment benefits have been riddled with anomalies. What is left is self initiative and resilience.

Here is a cute anecdote to illustrate my point. At least for this week, restaurants in Israel are only allowed to sell via a delivery service. Take-aways are prohibited. One cafe owner explained in front of TV cameras that he has informed all his regular clientele to approach his premise, call him from 100 meters away with their order, and he will “deliver” to them.

As Eisenberg wrote, Israel’s current economic decision makers are stuck in the past. Let us hope and pray that 2021 will bring in a series of new recruits.

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