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.

I have just spent 10 days walking around London and the English countryside. Even in the most obscure places, you find that somebody is shouting out an interesting message about their business.

On one particular day, my wife and I strolled for miles, through forests, up and down rolling grassy hilltops. And then we unexpectedly came out to a clearing to be greeted by a coffee house, doing a roaring lunchtime business. Home made pies and cakes, at seemingly reasonable prices. About the only thing they had not sold out of was coffee and tea.

This was not ‘passing-by’ custom. People had deliberately come here.

The reason I mention this is that on my first day back, apart from writing this blog, I have to give a talk on creating a winning business model. So as a Jerusalem-based business mentor and coach, let me just offer two insights that came my way, while on holiday.

We found a place to stay in London, using Booking.com. Great location in the city, the one room studio looked inviting on the website, even alluding to a balcony where you could sit outside. In fact, the entrance hall smelt of damp, the doors creaked, the fan in the bathroom sounded as if it was about to launch with NASA, and I could go on.

We will complain. The place will be graded accordingly. However, compare all that to the small flat that some friends of mine place on Airbnb. Their location in Israel is residential, neither close to business nor tourist centres, and yet they have an over 80% occupancy rate.

Why? Because they care about their customers. They have placed much thought into why people want to stay in such a lodging. As I suggested a few weeks ago, they have considered, in depth, why people want to buy.

We also discovered that travelling to and from Luton Airport is never a problem. Their are several buses an hour, multiple routes, 24/7, at amazingly attractive rates. You wonder how taxis can compete? They do. I know of one person who specializes in customers to and from Israel. His fees are a touch less than his competitors, but still way above those charged by the buses.

And how does he ‘get away with it’? His car is clean. He turns up punctually. He is polite. It is a service worth paying a bit extra for.

Meanwhile, the bus service from the airport in Israel to Jerusalem is not brilliant. For decades, one taxi service has dominated the roads. The shuttle fills up with ten people and then drives off. If you speak to their offices in Jerusalem, you are often left with that feeling of wonder what you have done to annoy them.

My wife and I waited for 50 minutes on last Friday morning – after an overnight flight – for the driver to pull out. He insisted on hanging around until his vehicle was full. He claimed that the rules allowed him to wait a full hour.

And as we were sitting there, helpless and clinging on to the last piece of patience we could muster, and waiting for others to pile aboard, many other travelers sauntered by with their luggage on their trolleys. You see, they were heading for the new railway line from the airport…to Jerusalem. Clean, still getting over a few teething problems, and none of the ‘unsubtle driving techniques’ of Israeli taxi services.

Your business model is often the base for an executive summary. Guess which model above would and would not appear to have a future. Be specific in your reasoning. And then, work out how these answers will have you summarise your business to a prospect.

 

 

 

 

The Israel Britain Chamber of Commerce is one of those old fashioned chambers, where a smile and firm handshake takes you a long way.

This week, it organised the 8th Annual UK Real Estate Convention, kindly hosted at the home of the ambassador David Quarrey. In his welcoming speech, Quarrey rolled off the numbers to perfection. For example, 2016 and 2017 saw record trade between the two countries. 2018 is not far behind.

What struck me was that roughly two billion shekels – say £0.45bn – is invested every year by Israelis in the British property market. As if to prove the point, David Fattal delivered a presentation as guest of honour. Just this week, the Fattal Group announced the purchase of the Midland Hotel in Manchester.

The Midland …… will be a significant addition to the Fattal group’s portfolio of properties in the UK, which will number 9,309 rooms in 44 hotels when the deal is completed.

With a touch of ironic timing, earlier this week, Graham Stuart, who is Britain’s Secretary of State for International Trade, declared that:

The UK and Israel have a strong and important trading relationship, and we are committed to strengthening it. The commercial team in our Embassy in Tel Aviv actively promote UK-Israel trade in the medical sector and are sponsoring a delegation of 6 Israeli importers of medical devices to meet with UK companies at the upcoming Medica Trade Exhibition this year.   There is also extensive bilateral collaborative medical research between the UK and Israel. The UK-Israel Tech Hub, based at the Embassy, helps to create tech and innovation partnerships across several sectors, including healthcare.
Next month, the Embassy is organising a visit by a delegation of senior NHS officials to Tel Aviv to meet with Israeli healthcare companies who are looking to invest in the UK.

Eight days have passed since a Palestinian kidnapped, handcuffed and shot two Israelis in a factory in the industrial zone of Barkan in the heart of the West Bank.

A few days later, this form of ‘self-defense” was justified by yet another resolution from the British Labour Party, this time emanating from the area of Brighton. Personally, I find this form of argument repugnant. It is barely discourse. Rather, it represents a set of statements based on hatred, whose design is the very opposite of peaceful coexistence.

I am not going to argue that the relations between most Jews and most Arab in the West Bank is like a rose garden on a summer’s day with birds twittering in the background. However, Israel’s weekend newspaper cobbled together some facts that are worth copying here and analyzing.

There are about 100,000 Palestinians working in Israel on a daily basis, and roughly 2/3 have a license to do so. Another 30,000 work in places like the Barkan area. If the average monthly wage in the Palestinian territories is around 2,500 nis, a typical Palestinian will bring home about 6,500 nis (about US$1,800) from an Israeli employer.  Of the 8,000 or so workers in the Barkan district, about 3,500 are Palestinians with a license.

Let us be clear. Since 2010, the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, has officially banned its followers to work for Jewish enterprises. These are the same companies that by Israeli law have to pay the Palestinians full social security contributions, which are negligent under Ramallah law.

In some factories, Palestinians do climb up the tree of management, although rarely to senior levels. That said, incidents of murder or lesser violence have barely been reported since the industrial zone was established 36 years ago.

The BDS movement, prominently supported by much of the Labour Party, would put an end to this creation of mutual wealth and trust. In other words, the Israelis should be boycotted and sent packing. In their place would be……….well, I suppose fewer Palestinians, earning less than half their previous wages, and without the social benefits that a Labour Party demands for its own membership in the UK.

I suppose this is where hatred is so valuable, as it is required to help to cover up the malignant contradictions of the BDS thought process. And in the meantime, the local authorities are constantly preparing more space for factories in the West Bank, which looks to be an economic win-win policy for all parties, who care.

 

 

 

 

I have been asked to give a series of lectures in the Jerusalem region on creating a killer business model. And when considering what makes a strong selling package, I came across a series of massive failures by those who should have known better – remember how Hoover UK promised a free trip to America if you bought £100 of products?

As a business coach and mentor, I find myself asking a question: Why is it that sophisticated executives make such blunders? What is it that they ignore?

I am fascinated by the practical, if not obvious, approach of Mark Banschick.

…. the buying decision is the result of both how well information was transferred from the business to the buyer, and the believability of the information…….customers need constructivist support, i.e. things that make the product or service personally meaningful. (My emphasis).

Interestingly, in this age of Amazon selling, Banschick makes the point that sales are often secured when a potential customer can touch or feel a product.

Cole Shafer takes this argument one stage further.

People buy to move closer to pleasure or further from pain (or in some rare instances both)

Shafer explains that sales are concluded for a wide range of different reasons; emotional, need, herd mentality to name but three. It is the job of the seller to understand what makes their target community tick and what message delivered by which medium is the most effective.

Again, all fairly obvious. However, why do so many of us – corporate and SMEs – miss this? The answers vary from laziness to arrogance through to the ‘fear factor’. What they all have in common is a lack of attention to detail.

So my question to you is what have you ignored in preparing your latest sales campaign? And have you ever considered how much you will benefit from just another 1% growth in sales?

I have written before about the growing trade between Israel and the UK. The numerous jobs gained at Rolls Royce in Derby is just one indication of this trend. In fact, “exports from the UK to Israel skyrocketed in the first six months of this year to £2.6 billion, an eyebrow-raising 75 percent increase on the eve of Brexit”.

In light of the hatred exhibited at the British Labour Party’s conference last week, it was suggested that I pursue the theme one step further. What follows are three items that I have come my way in the past week alone.

  1. The London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) is to hold its 3rd annual conference in Israel next month. Nearly 30 Israeli companies are already listed in London with a market capitalization approaching US$9 billion.
  2. In a totally different sphere – and I never thought that I would be writing this – Israel is about to commence large scale commercial exports of whisky to the UK. Yes, whisky, the “water of life” from the Milk and Honey distillery in the Holy Land, is to be imported by Maverick Drinks, a serial award winning distributor in London.
  3. And in the world of real estate, it is well known that Israelis have shown considerable interest in the British market in recent years. For example, the Fattal empire is the second largest hotel group in the UK , employing thousands. In two weeks time, the Israel Britain Chamber of Commerce (IBCC) will hold its 8th annual conference on the British property market. This is near guaranteed to raise investment into the UK.

I suppose that I should declare that I do possess one of the first bottles labelled by Milk and Honey, and also that I am on the board of the IBCC.

That said, can you imagine what would happen if the Labour Party was given a chance to implement its policy of hate? How many jobs would be lost on both sides of the equation? How much mutual investment would be lost? And in the name of …..?

 

It is generally accepted that Israel will be burdened by a general election in the first quarter of 2019. Thus, the top ministers of the various partners of the coalition are rushing to give interviews as to how much they have done for their supporters and how their policies have made these groups better off.

And yes, the politicians and bureaucrats in Jerusalem have been doing a reasonable job. For example, the rating agency, Standard & Poor, raised its grading of Israel to AA- this summer.

But, I have been very concerned just recently. The Finance Minister, Moshe Kahlon, an opponent of the Prime Minister and one of the shrewdest players on the political court, is advocating 90% mortgages for young, first-time buyers. In other words, on the 10th anniversary of the global credit crisis, Kahlon is rejecting one of the most key lessons learnt from the financial meltdown.

Significantly, Kahlon has had more than his fair share of arguments with the Governor of the Bank of Israel, Mrs. Carmit Flug. A few months ago, Flug realised that her tenure would not receive an ‘automatic renewal’ for a second term, and so she announced her resignation.

Flug’s deputy, Dr. Nadine Bodo-Trachtenberg, gave an interview to “The Marker” newspaper in Hebrew last week. Yes, she complained that she has not been considered for the top job, despite what she sees as he excellent pedigree. And she appreciates that she is as ‘marked’ as a supporter of her immediate boss. That said, Bodo-Trachtenberg clarifies issues that Kahlon would not necessarily want others to here.

First, Israel was extremely well prepared to meet the crisis of 2008. Banks were not exposed and the Minister of Finance at the time refused to budge to the needs of interest groups.

However, in 2018, the threat is external. Israel’s balance of trade has improved significantly by building up strong relationships with the likes of China, Brazil, the UK. Each of these countries and others are now facing the threat of an economic slowdown. This shift will probably impact adversely on Israel. Bodo-Trachtenberg argues that Israel should not continue in a vacuum, unprepared for the worst.

Second, compared to other countries, Israel has brought down its GDP-to-debt ratio from around 80% to 55% since the year 2000. The OECD average stands at about 100%. Above 120% or so, and you end being compared to former basket-cases like Greece and Ireland. The problem is that the populist demands for monies from the coalition partners in the Israeli government, combined with the necessary demands of the defense sector and the Prime Minister’s weak position in the Kenesset, means that the success of debt reduction is under threat.

And when that is at risk, Standard & Poor could revise their estimates back downwards. This in turn would make it more difficult and more expensive for the country to raise money on the international money markets.

I have no idea who will replace Flug. I do know that the best central banks in history are able to maintain their independence from the grubby hands of politicians. Israel needs that protection just as much as anyone other country. Let us hope that Kahlon and Netanyahu have the skill and courage to maintain their distance from one of the key elements of any civil society.

 

Today, Thursday, nearly 7,000 Christians marched are openly and proudly marching through the streets of Jerusalem. About 24 hours earlier, Jeremy Corbyn, the controversial leader of the Labour Party in the UK, spoke to his annual conference. Regarding Jews and Israel, he said:

I believe we are all stronger from listening and learning from each other.
The Jewish people have suffered a long and terrible history of persecution and genocide. I was humbled to see a memorial to that suffering two years ago, when I visited the former Nazi concentration camp at Terezin.
The row over antisemitism has caused immense hurt and anxiety in the Jewish community and great dismay in the Labour Party. But I hope we can work together to draw a line under it.
I say this to all in the Jewish community:
This party, this movement, will always be implacable campaigners against antisemitism and racism in all its forms.
We are your ally.
And the next Labour government will guarantee whatever support necessary to ensure the security of Jewish community centres and places of worship, as we will for any other community experiencing hateful behaviour and physical attacks.
We will work with Jewish communities to eradicate antisemitism, both from our party and wider society.
And with your help I will fight for that with every breath I possess.
Anti-racism is integral to our very being. It’s part of who you all are, and it’s part of who I am.

……. And let me next say a few words about the ongoing denial of justice and rights to the Palestinian people. Our Party is united in condemning the shooting of hundreds of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza by Israeli forces and the passing of Israel’s discriminatory Nation-State Law.
The continuing occupation, the expansion of illegal settlements and the imprisonment of Palestinian children are an outrage. We support a two-state solution to the conflict with a secure Israel and a viable and secure Palestinian state.
But a quarter of a century on from the Oslo Accords we are no closer to justice or peace and the Palestinian tragedy continues, while the outside world stands by.
As my great Israeli friend Uri Avnery who died this year put it: “What is the alternative to peace? A catastrophe for both peoples”.
And in order to help make that two-state settlement a reality we will recognise a Palestinian state as soon as we take office.

Promising, but as with much of the speech, great words and little substance. To find out if the deeds can match the words, it is worth referring back to the debate on Tuesday, when the conference voted to ban arms’ sales to Israel. The reasoning is that because Israel is deemed a goliath of an aggressor against the Palestinians, it should only be allowed to defend itself against terror with one hand tied behind its back.

Now this debate was considered the fourth most urgent issue at the conference, as judged by delegates. It was placed higher than the National Health Service or pensions to name a few. In fact, Israel was the only country selected for a foreign policy debate.

Some considered the discussion an empty gesture by an irrelevant force. Judging from the popularity of Corbyn’s own speech, I find this naïve. The debate on Israel had to be carefully orchestrated. And despite the control, many speakers managed to work into their comments anti-Semitic elements. For example:

If you want to know how that orchestration (of alleged antisemitism smears) works you need to watch that Al Jazeera documentary The Lobby.

What really concerned me was the chanting not reported about in the general press. At the beginning of the discussion, many delegates were bellowing out the phrase “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea”.

Sounds innocuous? It is part of the PLO constitution. It refers to the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. The constitution explicitly says that Jews will not be allowed to live in that area.

Nobody took any action to stop these chants. And where exactly are the Jews of Palestine supposed to live? In a Corbynite Britain?

In this context, what do the 360 words of Corbyn’s speech quoted above add up to?

Let me provide an answer in manner that challenges the newspeak of Corbyn. He argues that he talks to the IRA, Hamas, the Iranians, et al because he believes that in order to make peace, you have to talk to the enemy. Sounds potentially plausible.

It is funny how he never talks to his own enemies like leading rabbis in the UK or the Zionist organisations in the UK. Why is that? What do those lack of action signify?

Postscript:

I am currently reading a book called The Holocaust by Laurence Rees. With some ironic timing, his description of Hitler’s manipulation of the economic chaos of the late 1920s and the speeches of the Fuhrer are worringly familiar to a politician of the modern era.

Israel is known as the start-up nation. Its bilateral trade with countries like the UK has never been higher. OurCrowd, based in Jerusalem and a leader in microfunding, is about to reach US$1 billion in crowdfunding.

In recent weeks, the country has seen a stunning list of successes in the acquisitions market.

And so the list goes on. Israel’s place in the international market is well established.

This position is based on mutual trust and growth for all. Today, Tuesday, the annual conference of the British Labour Party is due to vote to reject that prosperity. This issue is considered more important than the failing National Health Service….which is also now benefits from Israeli technology.

Tonight, Tuesday 18th September 2018, the fast of Yom Kippur will commence. Known in English as the day of Atonement, Israel shuts down. You will not see cars on the road. Businesses are closed. Restaurants are shut. Complete tranquility, as the country – at least traditional and observant Jews – dedicate themselves to prayer.

(To put the biblical instruction in terms of 2018, millions learn how to put aside Whattsapp for 25 hours).

Sunday morning, roughly 48 hours previous to my writing this text, Rabbi Ari Fuld was out shopping near the town of Efrat, located between Bethlehem and Hebron. Many around the world know this region as the West Bank (of the Jordan River).

Fuld was stabbed in the back by a 16 year old, Khalil Yusef Ali Jabarin, from a village south of Hebron. There is a video of Fuld trying to chase the youth and taking a shot at him, before collapsing. I know the medic who tried to treat Fuld on the spot. He described to me the gapping hole in the rabbi’s back. He was declared dead shortly after arrival at the hospital.

The youth was remanded in an Israeli hospital, where he was treated for a mild flesh wound to his hand. His initial “court appearance” was conducted around his bed. The Palestinian Authority (PA) will pay his family about US$400 every month for three years. As the Palestinian ambassador to the UK effectively admitted on a talk-in last week, such funds are available due to the generosity and financial support from European and other governments towards the PA.

The supporters of the Palestinian cause have blasted social media with the argument that Fuld was an armed settler, and thus he was a legitimate target. I suppose the logic of that argument is that if you disagree with somebody’s politics, you can slay them in cold blood.

I guess that mix of hatred justifies 9/11 in the USA, 7/7 in London, Spanish train bombings et al. It is noticeable the many of the proponents of such views hang out with anti-semites. They imply that Jews are a fifth column in their country of living. More hatred, which is rarely found in societies looking to cerate individual growth and development.

What would such people say if a dear and beloved one was randomly slain in the name of a political movement? Would that also become acceptable?

As for the victim, I saw a post from a friend of mine, David Olesker.

In the last week a righteous man, whose public works are known to many, was murdered. Our Sages say that the death of the righteous (especially those who die sanctifying G-d’s name) is an atonement for the generation.
I can’t help but feel that, despite the countless merits of the acts Ari Fuld did in public, his true righteousness probably lay in his private life, known to his family and those closest to him. There are doubtless others, who are not known to the wider world, who stand beside him today, before the Throne of Mercy, where they will plead for their people on the day when we are all judged.
These advocates will not make us ashamed, let us not make them ashamed!

The scenery at this time of year in Israel is exquisite. On the Day of Atonement, Jews pray to be sealed in the Book of Life. I wish everyone – yes, everyone – a healthy, prosperous year ahead. It should be a year full of self-fulfillment and mutual opportunities.

The amount of Israeli investment in the UK has been growing since a UK government scheme called the UK Israel Tech Hub was launched in 2011……..Anglo-Israeli business deals totalling £85m have now been secured through the hub. Meanwhile, hundreds of British and Israeli companies have been involved in its various activities and events. During 2016-17 this included more than 150 UK and 490 Israeli firms.

Thus, summarised an extensive review by the BBC of the growing tech ties between Israel and the UK.

To give some context, the item comes during an interesting week for relations between the two countries. The British affirmed in the House of Commons that “The UK has announced £17 million of funding over the past four months, in addition to our original budget of £28.5 million, to protect UNRWA’s vital services (for the Palestinians).

And the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn has continued to oppose anti-Semitism, while talking the languages of its proponents (sic). This sinister approach was dissected in a satirical rebuke by award winning author, Howard Jacobson, and then in an eloquent speech by former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks in the House of Lords.

(As if to confirm their concerns and to highlight the depth of malicious debate in the Labour Party,  TUC delegate Mark Serwotka has just declared that Israel has tried to “create a story that does not exist”. His words and tone are the plagarised language of the fake ‘Protocols of Zion’ from Tsarist Russia.)

So let us just step aside and see how much each country contributes to the success of each others’ economy and society as a whole.

  • It is less than a month ago that the largest trade deal between the UK and Israel was declared. Rolls Royce is “supplying Trent 1000 engines to power a fleet of 16 Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft that have been ordered by EL AL Israel Airlines”. That is a lot of work for a lot of British jobs.
  • Staying with flight, the UK’s Effective Space, a startup developing a satellite servicing system (drones), has announced an agreement with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to provide technical and financial support.
  • In the world of finance, the cities of London and Tel Aviv have signed a landmark Memorandum of Understanding to bolster FinTech and cyber security cooperation between two leading global centres for digital innovation.

And so the list goes on. As a British minister stated in Parliament on 13th September: The UK-Israel Trade Working Group is making positive progress towards transitioning the EU – Israel Association Agreement, to maintain our strong trade and investment relationship with Israel.

I think it is worth concluding with extracts from a debate from the same day led by Dr. Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for international trade. To quote the salient points:

From online banking security to prescription drugs to cherry tomatoes, Israel has become an international technological and trade powerhouse. Every day, millions of Britons are benefiting from Israeli inventions and produce, even if they do not realise it.

Our trade with Israel currently stands at £3.9 billion in goods and services, with our exports up 7% in the past year. The Prime Minister met the Israeli Prime Minister in February 2017 to set up the joint trade working group, and I would like to thank the Israeli Government for their close liaison. We are dedicated to the continuity of trade and, once we leave the European Union, to having an ambitious new trade agreement that will provide even greater benefits than those we currently have.

The tech hub (see above) is there to help British businesses to get access to the innovations that come out of Israel across a range of sectors. It is worth pointing out that Israel is an extraordinarily innovative country and has more start-ups per capita than any other country on the planet. Where we can get UK businesses across a range of sectors to get access to such innovation, it is always a positive outcome.

The latest computers used in the House of Commons use Intel 7 and Intel 8 cores and above, and Shazam, Skype and FaceTime all use technology developed in Israel.

As I (Dr Fox) have already said, the key to that is the UK-Israel tech hub. This relates not only to the area of computers, which my hon. Friend has mentioned, but to FinTech, cyber-security, biomed, retail technology and the creative industries. These are all prime areas for co-operation between the United Kingdom and Israel, and we should celebrate that relationship and the benefits that it brings to both our populations.

Now if Mark Serwotka, a Corbyn ally, would have their way on Jews in Israel, how many British workers would lose their jobs. How much worse would British consumer become?

Israel’s economy is rarely a straight forward case study to analyse. All observations are usually couched with the get-out phrase about the uncertainties of the geo-political context. True, but for almost two decades – and arguably longer, the country and its commercial system has punched higher than expected.

This week, Jews around the world celebrated their new year. Israeli industry ground to a halt, except for those selling ice cream on the beaches. And yet the great stats keep surging through.

  • For the first time in some years, the fiscal debt compared to the GDP – an internationally accepted measure of an economy’s strength – is heading in the wrong direction. It may peak over 3%, but that is still far better than most of the world’s powerhouses.
  • Foreign currency reserves – at over 30% of GDP – remain close to their all-time high.
  • Unemployment has edge up to 4.3% in recent months, yet remains highly impressive for a country that has known far worse stats in living memory.

And as for the image of the ‘start up nation’, the success stories keep rolling in: –

The list of positives goes on. Yes, the downside is rarely far away. However, at this festive time of the year, it is worthwhile concentrating on the successes. Both Israelis and others can be proud, if not also thankful, for them.

It is rare that I just copy and past an article. This one just struck me as so rich in both motivation and modesty, and it is wrapped around one of my favourite themes, Jerusalem. Pls read, enjoy and pause for thought.

My compliments for the initiative shown by the author, Dvora Waysman.

At the corner of my street in Jerusalem’s Beit Hakerem neighborhood, there is a little pocket park. It has two benches, which are often occupied by the elderly or Filipino caregivers, having a break and meeting their compatriots. For anyone who doesn’t have their own garden, or a balcony with a view, it is a haven in a bustling suburb. It is always well-tended, weeded, watered and pruned, and there is always a bush or a shrub in bloom.

There is a plaque in the garden that simply reads in Hebrew: “In memory of Raquela Prywes, a nurse in Israel.” I have always been intrigued by this unknown lady, and only recently found out her story. She was born in 1924 in Palestine, as it was then, and her family had lived here for nine centuries. She grew up in Jerusalem in a close family, became a nurse and a midwife at the age of 18, and died in 1985 at the age of 61.

In 1945, she was asked to go to Atlit, a British prison camp located in the north of the country near the port of Haifa. There, survivors of the Holocaust, who had arrived on “illegal ships,” were held behind barbed wire. Among them were pregnant women, dressed in rags, who dreamed of delivering their babies in the Jewish homeland. Seeing these women, still in captivity after the unimaginable suffering they had been through under the Nazis, inspired this dedicated young woman to help them any way she could. Many of these women later told stories about the “Jewish Angel” who delivered the first babies born to Holocaust survivors in Eretz Yisrael.

When the British finally realized that Atlit could not hold all the “illegal” refugees landing on the shores, they decided to send the ships to the island of Cyprus. Due to Raquela’s outstanding nursing skills, and the compassion she had shown at the prison camp, she was asked to go along. There she delivered more than 2,500 babies to women who had escaped the Holocaust.

During the Israeli War of Independence in 1948, Prywes worked in Jerusalem at Hadassah Hospital, delivering babies day and night, as well as caring for the casualties of the intense fighting for the land of Israel. She had seen many of these soldiers in Cyprus; they had gone from the concentration camps in Europe to the refugee camps, and then into the new Israeli army.

In 1950, Raquela married Arik Brzezinski, an obstetrician who had emigrated from Poland. They lived in Jerusalem and had two sons. The same year, she was able to save a young woman who was six months pregnant and very ill with toxemia. The woman turned out to be the daughter of Golda Meir, who was to become Israel’s Prime Minister. She praised the young nurse as “the best nurse-midwife in Israel.” Tragedy struck in 1976, when their son was killed serving as a lieutenant in the IDF.

Together with her husband, she helped found the first hospital in Beersheva, which was then just a desert. There she helped deliver babies of Bedouin women, as well as Jewish immigrants from all over the world who were coming to the new Jewish State. Later, she was credited with starting several hospitals that saved hundreds of Israeli soldiers during the Six Day War in 1967.

After the sudden death of her first husband in 1961, she married a widower with two young daughters. Moshe Prywes was also a doctor, and the president of Hebrew University. They traveled around the world, learning medical techniques that they brought back to Israel to improve the services here.

Her life mirrors the establishment of Israel. She was there before its birth during the dark days of World War II, through the 1967 war and also the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Before she died, she saw her first Israeli grandchild born. She died too young, but left a legacy of devotion to the Jewish people for which we will always be indebted.

I don’t know who are the various people who come to tend her garden. I know they are volunteers, and not from the Municipality, but whether descendants, friends or just admirers of this wonderful woman I have no idea. I see them prune the rose bushes, tie up straggly plants, carefully weed between the rows. It always reminds me of a sampler that hung in our Australian kitchen when I was a child. My mother, not a great needlewoman, had carefully sewn the letters in different colored threads. They read:

“The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth.
One is nearer G-d’s heart in a garden
Than any place else on earth.”

Published by Jewish Press.com on 20th August 2018.

Usually, if Israel’s economy hits the foreign press, it has reported with a negative connotation. A recent detailed article in The Guardian newspaper from the UK is an excellent example, primed with selective details…..although I will not provide the link.

Again, usually, the bare facts are very different. Just take three examples from this week’s news.

ITEM 1: According to the UK’s Department of International Trade, 33 Israeli companies have set up shop in the UK during the past 12 months alone, joining over 300 other such businesses. It is estimated that the newcomers have already created about 610 jobs.

(It might be cheap to add, but I can only assume that this new wealth is located not in constituencies associated with the Parliamentary supporters of Jeremy Corbyn).

ITEM 2: Sodastream has a clear track record of creating employment for Palestinians and Bedouin, despite the claims of Israel’s opponents. It has been announced that PepsiCo has just bought the company for US$3.2 billion. I wonder if these same haters will suddenly stop drinking Pepsi products.

ITEM 3: Lana Del Rey is one of America’s most talented performing artists. She announced her intention to visit the Holy Land next month, and her statement was met with a monumental level of hate on social media. What impressed me most was her response.

I believe music is universal and should be used to bring us together. … Performing in Tel Aviv is not a political statement or a commitment to the politics there just like singing here in California doesn’t mean my views are in alignment w my current governments opinions or sometimes inhuman actions.

Del Rey is one of scores of artists this summer who are performing in Israel. They have fans from across the demographic, and that is what she is recognising.

It is this openness that is one of the fundamental strengths of Israel’s economy. It is there for all others, whatever their commercial make up. Those who wish to ignore it and to reject it are the ones who will lose out.

I was just beginning to reflect on another busy week. The usual question popped up: “What have I achieved?”, and then my mind stated racing off into a fascinating chain of thoughts. Let me explain.

In my work as a business coach and mentor, I have been tackling some fascinating new projects. Here are just three examples:

  • A former Broadway dancer, who has set up a dance school for young children in Jerusalem.
  • A 20+ something with little formal education, sitting in a co-workspace in Jerusalem, who has worked out a disruptive technology for the payments industry.
  • An educator, who is determined to create a children’s museum, from scratch.

And so I can continue. These really are very brave people, supported by minimal commercial experience. Watching them climbing over or going round obstacles as they are thrown at them, it has been a pleasure to work with them up to now, and so may the experience continue.

However, I realised that my “weekly personal recap” was seeking out something more. Not just a flash of inspiration, but something longer lasting.

Some people find that extra “uumph” by watching a TV programme such as the “Biggest Loser”. Jay Shetty’s films are never to be dismissed lightly. And the internet is full of amazing videos, such as the father who runs a long race pushing his physically challenged child in a pram. Fifty metres from the end, the child stops his dad, manages to stand up, and in the most awkward manner shoves himself over the finishing line. I will not forget that one too quickly.

Still, what is it that I do that I am really thrilled about and keeps me going during the day? And then I realised what it was, a most nonchalant of actions.

Most mornings, first thing, I usually find myself in Synagogue. For years, I had observed as people had put sums of money into a charity box, usually at a set money in the prayers. Yes, it’s great to help others, but I had felt that this specific approach did not appeal to me, for whatever reason.

This changed about a year ago, although I am not sure why. Religiously, most days, I now drop an insignificant amount into the opening at the top of the wooden box. I get a buzz out of it, every time. I know that, combined with the efforts of others, I am now helping somebody, somewhere, somehow.

And how does that relate to my work? Because that is what my mentoring and coaching is all about. The success of the case studies above are not dependent soley on me. Hopefully, I am one part of a wider circle of resources. When they come together, a unique dance studio is formed, an amazing software is available and kids will benefit from a fascinating educational experience.

Personally, I am putting what may seem an “insignificant amount” of my experience into the organisations of business owners, but it changes their lives. And the foundation for this? That little act every morning of picking up a few coins and placing them in a wooden container. I now understand what it generates for me for the rest of the day.

So what is it that inspires you this week….and every week?

 

Last week, I was reading a blog that implied that Jeff Bezos of Amazon has dispensed with powerpoint presentations in his company. The reason is that clever images fail to describe on-going stories nor do they bring home the “wow factors”. Apparently, slides have been replaced by old-fashioned 4-6 page typed out working papers.

I recalled this as I was sitting in the Google Campus in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. Eight hopefuls from the world of Cleantech were pitching. The prize was a trip for the winners to Scotland, prize money, and the opportunity to network with international investors. (And yes, one of the hopefuls was a long-time mentoring client of mine).

I should add that the lucky eight had already passed one round of selections. So I expected a high standard. And how I was disappointed. Apart from one team and my acquaintance, none of the participants brought home the presentations to those sitting in the audience.

Was that so bad? That is not just an opportunity gone begging. Think how much time (and money?) had been invested by each company on their ten ten slides. There was a range of classic mistakes: –

  • Presenters wasted time by reading long texts, from boring slides.
  • Slides did not support the verbal message.
  • Slides had so much information, the audience could not understand the message.
  • Presenters were so devoted to their slides that they barely looked at their audience.
  • Presenters had not rehearsed! (This point really flummoxed me.)

I could go on. However, there was one humongous mistake, common to all. While, I understand that the slides had to keep to a certain flow or path, none of them had a takeaway. Let me explain.

You invest vast amounts of time, money and effort into creating the slides. Most people even practice what they are to deliver. The listener quickly gets it that you are involved in something fascinating. Good for you, but……so what? What is in it for them; the investor, the buyer, the decision maker?

For whatever reason, all eight spokespersons spoke about themselves, their company and their innovation. They did not address the potential needs of their audience!

Which prompts me to raise the question, invoked by Bezos: Why did the contestants need such sophisticated powerpoint presentations in the first place?

It has been an awful night. At least 80 rockets have been launched into southern Israel since midnight. As a friend of mine posted on Facebook:

We were woken repeatedly during the night by sirens and audible rocket attacks from Hamas in Gaza.
The Rocket app recorded over 125 rocket and mortar attacks on Israel last night.
Hundreds of thousands of people spent the night in a shelter or safe room (if they have one – we don’t).
Did anyone hear about this on a foreign news station?
Seriously.
Anyone?

What a way to live! Would you accept that in your backyard? Will Israel go into Gaza? I have no idea, but this is not just a challenge to the country, this terrorism is a direct threat to Prime Minister Netanyahu. He has cultivated a reputation as Mr. Security. In other words, the country can depend on him.

This somewhat cynical consideration is incredibly pertinent, because just two days ago Israel’s High Court of Justice allowed the government just three more months to implement the new draft law. In effect, this would force ultra orthodox Jews to face conscription, which their political leaders see as a double red line, which should not be even considered.

Now, as Israel’s government is a coalition, dependent on these same parties, this means that the government is likely to fall, maybe before the end of the summer recess. In theory, this would suit Netanyahu just fine. Sometime towards the end of the year, he may face calls for prosecution. The noise of the elections should preempt and then dampen the clamour for his withdrawal from public office.

It should be noted that in poll after poll, Netanyahu is riding high. And it is assumed that after any such early elections, he will again ask the ultraorthodox to support his new government, assuming he is asked by the President to form it. (I shall spare yet another cynical comment).

It is incredible to comprehend that none of the multiples of opposition parties have thrown up a leader of strength and moral worthiness, who can challenge the incumbent Prime Minister. Certainly, the sharp words of the Druze community over the past few weeks have left him slightly wounded. A poor performance against Hamas this summer could also dent his popularity. And that is it.

One thing is clear to me. However Israel does respond to Hamas, it could eventually be seen in the context of a future general election. What a sad way to run a beautiful country.

 

True story. Happened to me last week.

I was asked by the Keep Olim organization to give a talk at the MATI premises in Jerusalem. What could I, as an experienced business coach and mentor, impart to new immigrants in Israel, looking to set up a new business.

Imagine the scene. Several of the participants turned up early. They entered the room, said their hellos to me and then promptly found a seat. The body language of many of them exhibited a “do not disturb sign”, as they took out their mobile phones, which I assume they had not looked at for at least an excruciating five minutes.

Resorting to some old fashioned techniques of group dynamic, I quickly arranged people into couples, and encouraged them to speak to each other. (One person struggled to abandon his precious phone, even if he might benefit from a new commercial encounter).

After seven minutes, I created new partnerships, although not without some objections. Apparently, I had not given the first set of teams enough time to listen to each other. Of course, I did point out that they could have done this beforehand.

Sad. In a society dominated by the language and technology of millennials, somehow we do not find the time or the ability to listen to the wisdom of those very people sitting next to us – at work or in the home. This point was rammed home in an article by the former Chief Rabbi of England, Lord Jonathan Sacks.

Writing about the Book of Deuteronomy, Sacks observes how the word “Hear” is mentioned 92 times. In that context, I would add that ironically the book is called Devarim in Hebrew, which means “words”. Sacks adds:

Listening to another human being, let alone God, is an act of opening ourselves up to a mind radically other than our own. This takes courage. To listen is to make myself vulnerable…..But, it’s the people not like us who make us grow.

Last week, our eldest son approached my wife and I for some business advice. He really listened, but went in a different direction. Intriguingly, a few hours after I read the comments of Sacks, he received similar words of wisdom from somebody else (in my presence). To give him credit, he has begun to act on them, and I believe that could make a vital difference in what he is trying to achieve.

 

 

By all accounts, Israel’s international credit rating is about to jump a level to AA. That is a major vote of confidence in the economic policy makers in the Holy Land. There are only a dozen other countries with a better score. In theory, the effect is that the state of Israel will be able to raise cheaper money to invest in infrastructure projects.

So, why am I not elated?

Building a strong, inclusive society is not a set of acts dependent for justification, based on national statistics. Here are two examples of what I mean. Just before breaking for the summer recess, the Israeli Parliament, the Kenesset, passed two controversial laws. The first is the National Law, which seems to lessen the concept that minority groupings have equality in the face of the law. Most commentators agree that the whole show was concocted by Netanyahu in order to shore up the electoral vote on his right wing, as a general election seems to be in the offering.

The Druze community in particular has issued its protests, so far without any effect. Proponents of the law have argued that the law does not change any status quo. Really? So why legislate in the first place? After all, I know that I am Jewish and Zionist, and no “national” legislation is going to enforce those views in me, or in anyone else for that matter.

(For the record, one commentator recalled that the Prime Minister’s life had been saved by a Druze, following an accident in a training mission decades ago. Similarly, I went shopping today, when a bottle slipped from my hand, cutting me sharply. I was kindly helped by an extra attentive member of staff, who definitely was not a follower of Judaism).

In the second instance, the new surrogacy law, deliberately discriminates against single-sex parents. It was pummeled through the Kenesset at the request of the Prime Minister’s ultraorthodox coalition partners. Within days, the streets were full of tens of thousands, voicing their opposition to the act. And suddenly, believe it or not, Mrs. Netanyahu has claimed that the LGBT community is in her husband’s heart. Personally, I am not convinced.

These laws are not for the benefit of the country as a whole. They are targeting specific sectors in order to garner votes. This motive makes them suspect, if not down-right bad. I would argue segregationist.

Last week, a newspaper article noted that the price index had risen about 20% since 2003. However, wages in the high-tech sector, the core of Israel’s new growth and with 15% of the workforce, have risen 60%. It is yet another example of how two economies are developing in the country, and that means a potential sharp division in society.

A couple of hours ago, my son asked me if I had heard about Israel’s new credit rating in the money markets. He was pleased and proud. Rightly so. And then I asked him who he thought would benefit from this extra wealth. He was stuck for an answer. I suggested that he start looking at those elements who support the current crop of ruling politicians.

 

 

 

 

I have just come across this blog or advert: How to learn a language in 20 minutes a day!

With an industrial revolution taking place in communications, there are so many ways to link up with people and talk to them, and do so with ever greater speed. Is Facebook already passed its prime? How did we survive until now without WhatsApp? etc etc. Ways are now available for the blind to see. And now I am being asked to learn an additional language?

If I think about it, we are taught to communicate within moments of emerging into the world. The doctor gently slaps the baby to get a reaction. The new born cries, and the circle of life can commence.

Fast forward to the home. How many times a day are there basic misunderstandings? And at work, the list of poor interactions can be added to near daily by all of us. Let me take one example; preparing a presentation, maybe for an investor.

There are million of blogs out there explaining that presentations need to be brief and dynamic. They need to have a “wow factor”, usually with a personal edge. Above all, they should show what’s in it for the investor, rather why the technology is so brilliant. And for all that guidance, as a business mentor and coach I am inundated with poor work.

Last week, I was given a very specific brief; to edit the English of a presentation. When it was pointed out that the messaging was poor, the response was that as they are a start up, they are not expected to have a killer set of slides.

In my view, nothing could be further from the truth. After all, at home you try to express things clearly to your partner or parents or children. When addressing a colleague, you look to ensure that they have understood. So why cut corners in a vital presentation, directed at investors or otherwise?

There are few really good platforms that help you to perfect your “one sentence pitch“, and then go on to help you create some killer slides. And it is rare that you come across a commercial that makes you choke, and thus you are drawn to the product or service. Why? Because it ain’t that easy!

There is a double lesson here. For all our deep and extended experience in communicating with others, we take the skill for granted. And to achieve the right results, we should look to invest resources, like it or not …… or else we need to be slapped like a child?

 

 

This week saw the news of three significant investments in Israeli technology by multinationals. However, the international community treated the information as worthless. Why?

  • GE Healthcare, Medtronic and Change Healthcare are to receive around US$5.5 million dollars each to expand their R&D efforts in the Holy Land. They all already employ hundreds in Israel.
  • U.S. sales and marketing software company Salesforce has signed an agreement to acquire Datorama, an Israeli cloud-based artificial intelligence marketing platform. in a deal worth around US$800 million.
  • Lockheed Martin and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to evaluate potential markets  for Rafael’s Smart, Precise Impact missile guidance kits.

Each of these commercial deals will have strong positive knock on effects globally, too complex to relate in detail here. Meanwhile, the international media has focused on Israel’s new nationality law.

Now, I have my own reservations about this law. What it actually does or change is still not clear, which is a clear indication why it is probably a bad act of Parliamentary business. It is certainly seen as an election move by the Prime Minister to shore up his proverbial right wing, as elections appear to be looming.

It is easy to see why the foreign press has focused on the issue. Israel has been ‘fair game’ for decades.

And just as easily as the journalists ignored some positive commercial news, they also “forgot” to write about the thousands of Syrian refugees who benefited from Israeli charity this week. Those refugees are ‘fair game’ for the Assad regime. Conversely, they are fair game to be ignored by the governments of the same critical journalists.

Meanwhile, Israel’s opponents appear holy than thou….to themselves.

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