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.

The headline of the article says it all: “Tough Israeli airport security can be insulting”.

It is a fine balancing act. Israel has to be ultra vigilant when it comes to security. However, does it have to be so rude, when questioning suspicious types at its airports? Read the responses of those in charge. At least as reported, there is not a hint of empathy at the plight of those turned over, many unfairly. Take it or leave it!

The issue comes to mind following my visit to a distillery in Islay, off the west coast of Scotland. Yes, Bruichlladich is a long way from home. However, the tastings on offer were a major comfort.

The staff were friendly and welcoming. Their explanations were excellent. It was the end of an early summer’s day – well, summer for that part of the world – and if you pardon the pun, everyone was in fine spirits. I decided to purchase a bottle.

I was told that in order to receive a tax refund, I should take my receipt to the appropriate desk at the airport. They did not offer the service of the paperwork at the distillery itself, which I thought was unusual. Unfortunately, at Heathrow airport, I was told that I had been misinformed and that I was required to submit the papers I did not possess.

Annoyed, I wrote to Bruichlladich. They responded (twice) within 24 hours. The response was understanding. They informed me that there would be some staff retraining. I was told that I could expect to receive a small item in the post.

Bottom line. Full apology. It was not possible to wind the clock back, but the distillery had risen to the occasion. Let’s face it. Islay is an island of 3,500 very friendly people and a lot more sheep than that.

By way of contrast, yesterday, I phoned a hotel near Jerusalem. I am trying to arrange a group booking for a family event. I eventually tracked down the relevant person.

When she spoke to me, I was able to enjoy the subtle background noise of lorries hooting nearby. Without explaining what was included, she cut straight to the price, as if I was supposed to absorb all its meaning in a quick gulp of breath. And then, she could not get me off the phone quick enough.

And if you think she called me back to follow up, you are wasting your time.

I can only assume that in all three stories, people have received some form of training in customer service. Clearly, in two of the incidents, the matter is seen of lesser importance. So the questions remain:

Where do you think I would want to purchase (again) if I had the choice, and why? And why don’t those people, who need to learn that lesson, fail to learn that lesson?

Occasionally, I have mentioned the amazing buzz over the past few years created JLM BioCity. There is a wealth of ideas and innovation coming out of that team, yet in the relatively tiny city of Jerusalem, is world class. But what of the other sectors?

Earlier this week, I received a briefing of what else is happening around the city. I was stunned by the range of activity. What follows is a summary of that same bulletin published by the umbrella organisation, called JNext.

The weekly report starts off with a comment on the role of designers and ‘design mindset’ in general, became much more significant and crucial for tech companies to grow and succeed. They believe Jerusalem can and should become the place ‘Where Tech Meets Design’ and we are happy to invite you to the flagship conference of the ‘Tech Meets Design’ initiative as part of the annual Jerusalem Design Week.

A. THIS IS BIG. Jerusalem was ranked by Startup Genome as Israel’s leading life-science cluster in Israel and one of the top-10 life-science ecosystems worldwide. The city was also ranked as one of the top-20 global ecosystems for Artificial Intelligence companies. Check out the full report and the Jerusalem page on the Startup Genome website. 🏆

B. Ben Wiener of Jumpspeed Ventures, the fund the invests only in Jerusalem based or born startups, announces its new fund, injecting more capital into the capital city. Ben is awesome, everyone loves him, including us. 💸

C. Bitemojo, the most delicious startup in the world (and one of Ben’s portfolio companies), has won the Global Gastronomy Startup Competition of the World Tourism Organization out of 300 startups from across the globe. If you haven’t tried it yet, Bitemojo is a culinary experience of self-guided food tours with nothing but your smartphone. Check out recent interviews with their co-founder, Michael Weiss on the WTO website and on TheMarker. Yummy 😋

D. Genetika+ (another one of Ben’s portfolio companies..) was featured in JPost’s ‘Companies that Make the World a Better Place’ section. Genetika+ is developing a personalized medical testing tool to better treat depression by helping physicians find the best drug therapy for their patients.

E. The Hebrew University hosts a Canna-Tech conference to promote more collaborations between the academy and industry in one of the world’s hottest trends. The Hebrew University is one of the leading institutions globally with expertise in Cannabis-related research and patents. ☘️(**the closest to a cannabis emoji..)

F. From a heavy metal band to a gaming company. Capricia, a Jerusalem-based gaming studio is about to release its first game. Check out the interview with the creators on Geektime 🎸

G. Mellanox, one of Israel’s biggest success stories (recently acquired by Nvidia) are in the process of starting an R&D activity in Jerusalem. They are looking for an excellent SW Team Leader manager to join 5 Years experience in C and Linux and at least 2 years of experience in leading SW teams is a must.

H. Taboola, one of the world’s leading content discovery platforms are in the process of setting up an R&D site in Jerusalem. They are looking for Algorithms Engineering team leader and SW team leader (JAVA) to lead the site.

Jerusalem has around one million inhabitants. Over half is compiled of two large conservative sectors; the ultra-orthodox Jews and the Arabs. And despite that natural restriction, which can limit industrial growth, the city is as vibrant as ever in the high-tech world.

A few years ago, I was acting as the business mentor for a biotech company that had entered the Mass Challenge incubator in Jerusalem. Alongside them were a couple of people developing an app for the culinary tourist market. And today?

The biotech entrepreneur is still pushing ahead. Bitemojo has just won an international gastronomy competition (UNWTO). Is this one tiny step to becoming another Israeli high-tech success?

Every now and again, there are journalistic gripes that Israel does not produce enough commercial Unicorns. Well, I was recently wading through the updated stats of Israel’s success as a start up nation. What is impressive how the numbers seem to keep growing, almost exponentially.

Just look at the base of Israel’s ecosystem. For example, Comverse, which hit troubles and was sold off in 2016, saw 299 of its employees set up 386 start ups. ICQ, the founder of ‘chat technology’ and sold for US$400 million to AQL had 42% of its staff create 66 enterprises. Anobit, Intel’s first Israeli purchase, fostered an additional 11 businesses.

Another aspect of the high-tech industry is its impact on the lesser developed elements of the working population. Roughly 160,000 people are employed in high-tech, and there are about another 10,000 unfilled positions. Back in 2010, maybe 3,500 came from the ultraorthodox sector. That number had close to trebled by the end of last year.

Not only does this ensure that two conflicting parts of society are able to meet each other in the workplace. Significantly, many of these observant workers are female. Their work hours are frequently adjusted to match their domestic demands, often allowing husbands to study all day in religious seminaries.

Overall, women compromise around a quarter of the Israeli high-tech sub economy. Since 1995, at least 24 ladies have led exits of US$ 30 million or more. At the top of the list is Dalia Prashkar, who sold to BMC for US$650.

The Non-Jewish population is also beginning to make its mark. 24% of the overall population, barely 8% work in high-tech. Intel, CISCO and others had taken major steps to change the balance. And there is now a government sponsored high-tech incubator in the Arab city of Nazareth.

What next? Fivver, Waze, Wix have all succeeded on the global stage. ReWalk is helping paraplegics move about. Mobileye, started out to prove to Toyota that a solitary camera could protect a car from accidents. The company was sold to Intel for US$15.3 billion last year. It has already seen a unicorn spun off from it.

So what will we be saying about Bitemojo in five years, or maybe  we will only have to wait twelve months?

If you had to choose one picture to sum up or to encapsulate how you feel about your work, your profession, your business, what would it be?

Now, I am a lousy photographer. The question came to me, as I was going through some snap shots of my recent holiday. I unexpectedly came across this item.


Loch Lomond (2)

This beauty spot was captured on the northern tip of Loch Lomond, near Glasgow, far away from my home in Israel. In better resolution, readers would be able to pick out the reflections in the water. And from here, I could go on to sing the joys of a recent wonderful holiday.

However, my point is different. I have had the pleasure of visiting the lake in the past. And on each occasion, it brings out a reality test in me. Strange, but the backdrop and tranquility allow me to reassess what is and is not important in my business.

In other words, the atmosphere helps me to focus and to appreciate what I want to be doing and how to achieve those goals. Yes, even experienced business mentors need a wake up call from time to time.

Too often, that reality check for many of us comes after having to cope with an unpleasant crisis in our lives. The truth is  very different. We have opportunities to ‘stand back and to think’ all the time. Yet we refuse to avail ourselves of those moments, usually because we are too afraid.

A picture – and yes, it can express 1,000 of your words in one breath – can help you to re-establish that focus. So I ask once again: What is that visual moment does it for you and are you prepared to use it more often?


True story:

Yesterday, a guy turned up 44 minutes late for a one-off 60 minute business coaching session in Jerusalem. He had taken the wrong bus and was thus badly delayed.

He asked to reschedule. I took one look at him and made an immediate, potentially cruel, assessment. I denied his very legitimate request.

Over the next 3 minutes, I coached him into delivering short targeted elevator pitches that he was not used to uttering. he became empowered. I then asked him why he had requested a one-off session. Over the following 10 minutes, I shared with him a series of bespoke pieces of advice, all the time encouraging him to share more information about his commercial issues.

16 minutes later (and another three for good measure), he walked out of the room confused, shaken and delighted. My assessment had been correct. He had been too protected for too long. It was time for a shake up.

To be blunt: It was time to show him that he is allowed to announce what he is trying to achieve and how this will make his community a better place.

The nightmare of the wrong bus journey had been eradicated (almost) and replaced with hope. That delay had (bizarrely) given his 60 minute meeting an added dimension and purpose.

Jay Shetty’s latest video focuses on this very point. For most of us, a delay is a hardship or even a punishment. Actually, it is often an opportunity for us – to think deep, to appraise and to assess, and then to change.

I look forward to seeing my client in a couple of weeks to see what has happened. And yourself….?


I was chatting with a relative yesterday. They were describing how their boss and company owner was so manic that they had installed secretly cameras in the office – checking up on what time staff came in, while they were thousands of miles away in a different time zone on holiday. We discussed how to react.

On reflection, a more important question surfaced. What is your self worth? After all, the boss is playing control freak par excellence. This power play can only be won by diluting the self respect of individual staff members.

A great podcast by Daniel Pink looked at the same subject from a different angle. How can we measure gratitude?

We are taught to count or add up our blessings. Pink argues that we should mentally remove what is important to us. can we do without them. That will reveal what is crucially important for us.

True, and definitely food for thought. However, it leaves you feeling a little hopeless. A somewhat painful exercise.

Thus, I argue that Pink misses the follow up to his observation. There are times when we hit a crisis point. And, although help may be on offer, it has to come from within ourselves. We have to dig deep.

Long distance or marathon runners call this hitting a wall. And I just came across this amazing poster, which sums up with supreme clarity what I am trying to explain. It offers a clear way forward.


I looked at the picture for several seconds, as I contemplated what it was saying to me. What I can reveal were all the thoughts were powerful and motivating. Yourself?


Easter, Passover, almost Ramadan….the main religions seem to be in shut down mode. And yet the economic meanderings of Jerusalem, Israel, suggest otherwise.

Netanyahu won the general election less than two weeks ago. How he builds his coalition will be interesting. It is clear that he wants to try to keep the Finance Portfolio in the hands of his own Likud party, but how that that will eventuate remains unclear.

What is a given is that despite the strength of the economy, there are many structural changes that remain firmly on the table and ignoring them is a regressive act. For example, it is now accepted that the value of real estate in Israel is on the rise, despite the previous government’s flagship programme on the issue. Much needs to be done, and soon.

Following up on that theme:

The high exposure to credit for construction and real estate, together with mortgages, constitutes almost half of the banking sector’s credit portfolio. It continues to be an important risk for the banking system. There is a risk in the event of a renewed upheaval in the housing market equilibrium…

The Bank of Israel has been warning about this for months, but the ruling politicians and their mandarins have preferred to ignore the warnings. In fact the Governor’s tenure was not renewed. Whoever inherits the Ministry of Finance will be required by the money markets to act, and do so in real time.

Looming in the background is President Trump’s deal of the century, which is slower being leaked. As one journalist observed:

If you break it down, the Trump plan amounts to calling on the Palestinians to accept quasi-economic autonomy, with a US administration giving them monetary support and raising money for them from countries in the region – the “Arab NATO”: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the Arab Persian Gulf states.

And meanwhile, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, still dominated by the PM himself, has found a clever way to encourage countries to move their embassies to Jerusalem. First step – open up a large bureau for joint financial cooperation.

For example, since the visit of the Brazilian President to Israel last month, there are discussions to open a trade mission in the capital. In a similar posture, Hungary and also Australia are looking to create diplomatic offices in Jerusalem, based initially around boosting trade with the Holy Land.

Despite it snowing on the Golan Heights this week, the commercial story around the city is heating up.  I hope that the Prime Minister’s personal issues do not effect his efforts to move forward on all fronts.



This week, I attended at networking meeting in Jerusalem. Leading local companies were asked to present to a packed forum what they contribute to the local and international economies. Nothing too original in that, but together they made a loud deafening noise.

(I took no formal notes. So my observations are drawn from memory).

Let’s start with Intel. Always known for being the first prime high-tech company to set up in the Holy Land. And Israel is known within Intel as its first overseas r&d center. Today, the company employs over 12,000 Israelis directly, impacts on about 46,000 other workers, and is one of the country’s leading exporters.

The big news. As in the past, the next generation of chips entering millions of computers globally is being developed in Jerusalem.

By the way, my office is  situated near the Intel facilities. Every day, you will see the company employing those from all walks of life, including all the religions.

Intel bought out Mobileye, which has partnerships with most leading car manufacturers. A spin off from Mobileye is OrCam, which is valued at over US$1 billion within a decade of being set up. OrCam helped blind people to vote in the recent general elections in Israel. It intends to help them to drive. And from there, it will help those with impaired and other disabilities.

The list goes on. Brix Software is powering Finntech services for CrossRiver Bank in New Jersey. Synamedia, which was spun out of Cisco, is providing the likes of SKY TV and many others encryption services. etc etc. It was a fascinating list of stories from the many speakers. All are desperately trying to recruit software engineers.

What does this all add up to?

Jerusalem has around one million citizens. As seemingly throughout its history, it is a hotbed of religious and diplomatic discourse. And yet, the city and its residents are making an exciting and positive impact on the lives of billions around the globe.

That is a story worth investing in. That is a story that the world can look to as an achievement. despite the odds.


It was a great few hours last Sunday evening. A packed Jerusalem coffee house listened to two lecturers, explaining the connection between working out and improving your work environment.

(Side bar: To cut the technical jargon, there are four chemicals in the brain that do good things for us, when we activate them through exercise).

A business coach and mentor myself, I have spent much time over the past 15 years ensuring that I have to buy new running shoes every six months. It was only once I had started to train regularly that I realised how badly I missed it, when pesky things like holidays with the family began to get in the way.

And I will never forget the morning after my first full session at the gym. The body tingled for a whole day, and I am not the only one to remark like this. A very special feeling.

Daniel H. Pink is well known on the motivating circuit, A recent video of his asks how we can motivate ourselves to go out and to exercise regularly.

Basing his observations on the work of others, he argues that the ability to run (or swim or cycle or whatever) can be seen as a “gift”. It is not something we have to do, but we can choose to accept the option, or not.

For Pink, the question of whether to exercise or not can become an autonomous decision. We can control what we do. This approach helps to shake off the pressure of not being bothered with going out in the rain.

As if to prove the point, yesterday’s 9.30am client turned up straight from the gym. Shortly after our previous session, when they had very cautiously listened to me preaching about the virtues of getting off their backside, they had met a friend. That person was looking for a gym partner. To their surprise, my client immediately took up the suggestion and started to go.

My client now trains five times a week and he said:

Working out has added two hours of thinking time to my day.

But what for? I am often asked this by people. What is the benefit from all that extra effort?

Last week, I was part of a very interesting chat with friends. Each had learnt to run and each had completed a personal milestone. And we all agreed. Once you cross that finishing line, you almost automatically think to yourself: “What next?”.

And then you understand: You are not just looking for the next physical challenge. You wonder what else you can achieve at home and in the work environment.

It is an accepted fact that Israeli general elections are determined by who is seen as the best person to lead the country safely and courageously through a war, if so needed.

You can talk about the corruption charges launched at Prime Minister Netanyahu. You can argue that his main rival and former Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, is a political novice. etc etc. These factors pale into insignificance. What counts – what matters – is the perception of future physical safety andwho can be seen to deliver on that.

The lead economics’ editor in the Ha’aretz newspaper – a journal that despises Netanyahu – believes that the man should be thrown out by the nation. He is corrupt, and that corruption is ruining the country, financially and socially and morally.

I was more interested in the economic presentation by Sever Plocker in the Yediot Ahronot paper. As he surmised, for much of the past two decades, when Netanyahu has been Finance Minister or Prime Minister for most of the period, the economy has soared along at around 3.5% annually, barring 2009 and a small matter of a global credit meltdown.


In her 2017, Dr Karnit Flug, then Governor of the Bank of Israel, observed in her annual report that there was too much reliance of revenue flows that may not come through, especially at a time when expenditure was set to rise. By November 2018, the lady was out of a job.

Was the warning warranted? As Plocker points out, the budget gap of 2018 is 3.8%, double that of 2016. It is one of the highest in the OECD. And 2019 is likely to see the difference widen.

In other words, whilst the economy may seem to be in good hands and unemployment is set at 4%, the grey clouds are building up. After the elections, “the government will have to trim the rise in spending and raise tax revenue”. Plocker wonders why Dr. Flug will not be offered an apology.

Plocker continues by pointing out that not only have housing prices not really fallen. It seems that they will rise again as the impact is felt of the lack of little new housing being built. Ouch again, and so on.

What has the economy of 2019 and 2020 got to offer Israelis, on the back of a decade of Netanyahu in government? As the Netanyahu approved new Governor assesses:

In order to maintain the economy’s robustness, the government will have to make fiscal adjustments, a mix of greater efficiency, trimming the rise in spending, and a rise in revenues from taxes.

That does not sound very nice, thank you very much! That can only be the fault of the present government.

The Globes financial newspaper surmised:

The challenges facing the next government are greater integration of Arab women and haredi men into the workforce…. Another challenge is the low efficiency of Israeli bureaucracy. The Bank of Israel recommends that the government should set qualitative and quantitative goals for government workers in the framework of new labor agreements.

Netanyahu has made arguably racist comments about Arabs. He is so tied to the haredi parties that he will help them keep their constituency off the streets. And his claims about reducing bureaucracy – a pet theme of his – remains just a pet theme.

So who to vote for, if it is the economic issues that determine how people will decide? Well, we now have a better understanding as to who not to back.

The unnamed Lieutenant-Colonel from the Israeli intelligence forces said that they cried, when his team realised that they had identified the body of Zechariah Baumol. Somehow, after 37 years, the Israeli army had tracked down his place of burial. With the help of Russian President Putin and a third country, the reserve soldier, killed in Lebanon, had been brought out of Syria and was laid to rest in Jerusalem.

April 2019 is a horrendously divisive time in Israel’s history. The general election campaign has taken few hostages. Somehow, the story of this first sergeant, wrapped in the humility of his mother, sister and other family members, has humbled the nation. Prime Minister Netanyahu called his ‘return home’ as one of the most emotional episodes in his reign at the top.

In a sense, for a few hours, campaigning ‘seemed’ to be thrown to the gutter, along with all the useless flyers and interfering WhatsApp messages. The failing health of the President’s wife, Ruhama Rivlin, has also struck a cord of unity, even if the President himself had been insulted earlier in the week by the Prime Minister.

However, to my amazement, the other picture that has caught my attention was in today’s edition of the Ha’aretz newspaper, known for its vocal support of Palestinian rights. On page 24, we see a full picture. The caption describes Palestinians running away from gas canisters launched by the Israeli army, presumably at a demonstration near the border with Gaza. In the foreground, are seven children and one adult. Sad, no?

Now remember, for the first time in years, the Palestinian issue is very much off the front pages in this election. What is really sad for me is that the picture has a misleading attribution. Over 20 other people in the background are just loitering about – no tear gas is bothering them. No child is wiping their eyes.

And then you have to ask. Who takes under age children to a demonstration, especially when violence is a probability,…..and why?

Take a step back. In 2010, the Arab League set up a special fund for donations to be funneled to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. Currently, the World Bank estimates the GDP of Gaza at 1% of that of Israel. What has gone wrong?

Egypt’s border closure back in 2012 has had a major impact. Hamas determination to invest in military aggression against Israel – 1,000 rockets fired in 2018 alone – has diverted resources. In the past year, President Abbas has cut off funding from his Hamas enemies.

More pertinent is the question what happened to that money from the Arab League? At the end of 2014 and the latest major fighting with Israel, US$4 billion was promised. In the following two years, about US$1.8 billion turned up. New suburbs were created. Water systems were installed.

But, then the donors assessed the level of graft by Hamas officialdom. According to the World Bank, the money flows faltered to US30 million monthly in 2017 and a paltry US$4 million last year. Combine that with Abbas cutting 30% and then 50% of the annual US$1.5 billion allocation, which he was supposed deliver, and then you can begin to wonder.

The stats continue. The standard of living in Gaza dropped by 10% in 2018. It is 140% higher in the West Bank, as ruled by the Palestinian Authority of Hamas.

The fundamentalist and intransigent, terrorist government of Hamas was propped up by Arab friends for years. It is currently funded by suitcases (literally) of dollars from Qatar. Weapon systems, originating from Iran, are still smuggled in.

Whatever the outcome of the Israeli election, the internecine Arab hatred will continue. It is sad. It is tragic, but it is not Israel’s fault. Whether Netanyahu wins or not, the upshot of the economics of Gaza will see the adult population continuing to send their kids to the front line. Sickening.

Last week, I questioned if the Israeli economy truly needed another four years of a Netanyahu-style government. This comes on top of a warning from the Bank of Israel that growth is beginning to show signs of slowing down.

But not all is gloom and doom. Yesterday, I spent an exhilarating morning moderating  a networking session between the Jerusalem Business Networking Forum and a delegation from Global New York. We were hosted by Biohouse, a brand new state-of-the-art hub for bio start ups in Jerusalem. The concept is so good that it is to be exported, first to Tel Aviv and shortly to New York.

This impressive centre is not all that is new in Jerusalem. For example, HIL Applied Medical Ltd. has signed an agreement to lease a 700 square-meter space from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem to set up a manufacturing centre. The total cost of the project will amount to approximately $5 million. And this is potentially dwarfed by the plans of Mapi Pharma, which intends to set up a facility to manufacture a drug to combat MS.

Elsewhere in Israel, the big chiefs of Citibank and Walmart have been visiting, and not just to look at the late winter storms. Skoda, owned by Volkswagen, is expanding its operations in the Holy Land. The Radicle Challenge is seeking to promote Israel’s resurgent agritech sector.

The thirst of American and European fund mangers to be a part of the start up nation does not seem to be ending anytime soon. The financial numbers are staggering.

I just these stunning macro figures would convert out more into the pockets of those millions not involved in the world of high-tech and innovation.



The 2014 speech by Admiral William H. McRaven went viral and is still going round Facebook. The core line is that marines are commanded to make their bed every day so that they start the morning with an achievement. Book that one small issue and then you will have the confidence to nail down more demanding tasks.

I was reminded about the video as I stared at a small glazed pot, roughly the size of the palm of my hand. That dark green, near useless item, has travelled with me for decades, gathering dust in various different homes. And last week, I found it a new shelf, as we were unpacking yet another box.

I reflected how I had made the pot when I was about nine years old. Compared to others in my class, it was nothing special. After all, I was no good at art. Even today, I draw the most primitive of pictures.

And yet, I began to recall how quietly ecstatic I was when the item had come out of the kiln. It had survived. I had created something.

I do not recall sharing my delight with too many people. I do not recall my teacher sharing with me any words of encouragement. I guess that the momentum was lost in the history of mankind. I was soon to drop pottery.

Also last week, I was discussing the next steps to be taken by the owner of a small Jerusalem-based business. Providing a unique service, she was beginning to think very ambitiously. As her business coach and mentor, my job was to help her to channel her motivation in order to compensate for a lack of certain skills.

Suddenly, it was clear from her face that she was getting cold feet. I assured her that her vision was fine. Now, instead of concentrating on the final stage – which is a long way off – that she should just ensure that she completes the first few tasks, and do so as best she can. With perspective restored, she walked tall out of the room, and I am looking forward to our next meeting in a couple of weeks.

For the record, I recently read that my school has introduced a series of art, needlework and creative classes for boys aged around 13-14. You wonder why?

As for the pot, I think that it is time to fill it with something more valuable than paperclips or similar.




April 9th 2019. Election day in Israel. It is not so much of who will be the biggest party, but which block on the political map will win. For now, Netanyahu’s right wing grouping has a slender lead, just.

For most of Israel’s 71 years and in direct contrast to most democracies, the issues of defense and foreign policy are seen as more important than the economy and social affairs. That is probably still true today, but how people feel about the shekel in their pocket is obviously a pertinent factor in how they will cast their vote at the polling station.

Let me be clear. Israel’s economy has been one way track upwards since the beginning of the century, barely effected by the 2008 global crisis. And Netanyahu, as Prime Minister or in other positions, has played a key role in that success. Just over 8% of the working population is involved in high-tech and they are generally doing very well.

Yet there is a feeling that the clouds are gathering. And even if they are, can Netanyahu keep the picture bright enough to control his support for another three weeks?

There has been a worrying trickle of less positive economic information over the past month:

And so the list goes on. Crisis time it is not, but something is not right.

The most indicative sign of this is the price of fruit and vegetables. Now Israel was set up as an agricultural economy. There are hundreds of farms – private, kibbutzim and so on.

The previous government promised that the cost of living would be a key part of their next programme. Would this mean a freer approach and the reduction of duties on the import of fresh produce? Prices stabilizing?

You must be joking! Over the same period since the early 2000s, prices have nearly doubled. Out of season fruit are just not available. The local farmers are still protected, even though they will argue that they are given a raw deal by the big chains of supermarkets. Competition is stifled. So much for the free economics, preached by Netanyahu.

Last weekend, I read the most bizarre analysis. In order to override the power of the chains, more and more farmers are setting up their own local shops. Great. However, the newspaper “The Marker” compared 14 types of products, sold in three private shops and also in four chains.

You would have expected that the farmers could offer the best deals as they do not have to bare the cost of middle men. Again, you must be joking! Of the nearly 100 prices in the table, almost without exception, the farmers were the most expensive.

And this is the economy that Netanyahu is trying to sell to the electorate as a picture of achievement.







Israel is where Western countries send delegations to learn how to copy the success of the start up nation. Just this week, it was announced that Mellanox exited for a mere US$6.9 billion. Who’s next?

And yet there are those who are questioning if the proverbial bubble has burst for the Israeli economy. The fiscal deficit is climbing. The general election on April 9th and is likely to result in further political instability. Can the economic triumphs of the past decade be repeated?

Palestinians benefit from a resilient Israeli economy. Legally or otherwise, over 100,000 labourers find employment daily via their neighbours. If they gainfully registered they receive full social benefits, which barely exist in the territories. That said, since the Oslo Accords, both in the West Bank and particularly in Gaza, the Palestinian economy has shrunk.

Yes, there was a positive blip at the end of the 1990s – 15% improvement for two consecutive years. However, Chairman Arafat’s decision to launch the Intifada killed that off, as well as others.

The West Bank has historically been the stronger of the two districts. According to an analysis by Doron Peskin, unemployment has risen slightly over the past two years to almost 18%. Arguably of more concern is that economic growth has shrunk by almost 50% to about 2.7% annually. The data for Gaza is far more depressing.

What is important to note about these numbers is that natural population growth is higher than 3%. President Abbas is ill and is seen increasingly as less able to command respect. And we have observed that the Israeli economy may be weakening, and thus less able to take up some of the slack.

Next stop? I am not sure. However, just before Hamas launched two rockets at Tel Aviv last night, there had been a massive demonstration in Gaza. The populace were revolting at the high cost of living. At the same time, the shops in the better off suburbs still appear to be remarkably busy.

I suggest that there is a lesson here. The Palestinian leadership should learn from their Western colleagues, listening to Israelis about how create wealth rather than seeking to destroy hope.

Here’s a big sales tip: Never miss one of Bernadette McClelland’s short mentoring videos, always so insightful.

Bernadette’s latest two minute clip refers to the ABC of selling, and I quote:

ABC – Always be Closing – Meh!
ABC – Always be Connecting – Mmm!!
ABC – Always be Contributing – Magic!!!

However, she goes on to add a sting in the story. Some people sell so hard that they end up missing the point. In other words, minimal profit. Ouch!

I have recently faced two examples of this attitude with mentoring clients from the Jerusalem area.

In the first case, the seller was so determined to win the contract that he has climbed down to a point were he is working for a very low hourly rate. It can be argued that this deal will help him secure success with other clients. Maybe, but at what cost? And will he now be at ‘the mercy’ of the first customer?

In a second incident, my client nailed down a fantastic sell. The goods went out at a very lucrative price. However, because he is a nice guy and gets a buzz out of helping people, he threw in so many extras – at a cost of an enormous amount of time – that the profit level has been diminishing by the second.

Call it ABC – or even aleph, bet, gimel to give it a local connotation – your selling should not obligate you to give or to contribute so that it hurts. Why? Because that will stop you helping others downstream.



The role of women in Israeli society is not a simple issue to discuss.

First, there are two conservative blocks – the ultraorthodox and Arab sectors – which are traditionally very conservative in outlook. And the important role of the army in day-to-day life, albeit that many more combat positions are now available to women, is another limiting factor.

Just recently, much has been made about the lack of women in senior roles in the political system. This is especially pertinent since elections are coming up. In fact, the World Bank ranks Israel as only 76th in gender equality.

However, all is not doom and gloom. Most of the senior positions in the banking system are held by women. The JLM-BioCity Event this week hosted ten female leaders in the field of pharma and biotech. Forbes is blazing another trail with its first Under 30 Summit for Women, to be held March 31-April 4 in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Meanwhile, one enterprising blogger attests to six Israeli women with a mission to change the world for the better. And it does look as if Druze women will finally have a rep the Israeli Parliament.

Clearly much is still to be done. However, I will leave the last word with the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, which released a mountain of info to commemorate the day. (And I quote in full).

International Women’s Day 2019
Central Bureau of Statistics annual report
The statistics in this report are mostly from the year 2017.

• Female population in Israel at end of 2017 – 4,433,560 (out of about 8.9 million total population), of whom 27.3% were age 14 and younger, and 12.8% were over age 65.
• The average age of giving birth to a first child rose in the last decade, from 26.8 in 2006 to 27.6 in 2017
• Fertility rate of women in Israel: 3.11 children, compared to OECD average of 1.7.
• Babies born to single mothers accounted for 5.3% of all Jewish babies born in 2017.
• Life expectancy for women in Israel is 84.6 (compared to 80.7 for men), a rise of 2.2 years in the decade 2007-2017, compared to 2 years among men.
• Overweight: Age 20 and older, 40.9% of women and 55.4% of men were overweight.
• Among 12th-graders, more girls than boys were eligible for a matriculation certificate – 70.9 % compared to 59.2% respectively.
• Among Arabs, the disparity between male and female 12th-graders is greater. Of those fulfilling the qualifications to enter university, 56.6% were women and 37.8% men.
• In the 2017/18 academic year, 59% of university students were women. Compare with 1969/70, when less than half of the students were women.
• Among Arab students, 68.9% were women.
• Percentage of women among academic students: 58.4% of BA students, 62.2% of MA students, 52.8% of doctoral students, and 74.3% of diploma students.
• Women constituted over 80% of the students in paramedical professions and education, and only 30-35% of the students in physical sciences, engineering, mathematics and computer sciences.

Employment 2018
• Participation in the labour force of women age 15 and over was 59.8%, compared to 68.2% of the men. More men than women were employed full-time. Among both men and women, the unemployment rate was about 4%.
• Women constituted 56.3% of employees in academic fields, and 33.8% of managerial positions were filled by women. 34% of hi-tech workers were women.
• 90% of working women are satisfied with their jobs, but only 56% are satisfied with their salaries.
• Since 2007, the gender-based disparity in income decreased for salaried workers, but increased or was unpredictable among the self-employed.
• Among married couples, in 67.2% of one-income households, the wage-earner is male. Among Arabs, the percentage is even higher. Among the ultra-orthodox, the reverse is true – in 76.8% of one-income households, the wage earner is the woman.

• Of 34,200 people tried for criminal offenses, 7.5% of them were women.
• Licensed drivers in 2018: among the Jewish population, 45% of licensed drivers were women; among the Arab population, 38% (a rise from 31% in 2008).


It is about to arrive. OurCrowd’s annual Jerusalem investor summit will take place this week.

The show is sold out. Participants are expected from over 150 countries, and I intend to meet a few of them at a client later on today. All for an operation that has been going less for a decade and will place investments from US$10,000 upwards. So what is the big deal?

The Globes newspaper answered the question very succinctly recently, and the article includes a full interview with the CEO, Jon Medved.

30,000 investors are registered in OurCrowd’s crowdfunding platform. Figures provided by the company to “Globes” show that in 2018 alone, the fund raised $400 million and invested in 80 companies: 24 new investments, 56 follow-on investments, and four investment funds. The fund was involved in 29 exits, the most prominent of which were BriefCam, sold for $90 million to Canon, and Jump, sold for $200 million to Uber. In 2019, OurCrowd has already been involved in the sale of Corephotonics to Samsung for $155 million.

I was stunned by a further set of stats I read in another paper over the weekend.

  • OurCrowd relies on over 170 experts
  • An investor will typically receive at least 5% of the shares of a company
  • About 10% of the investors are Israeli.
  • The average amount invested each time is around US$350,000. And a total of over US$1 billion has been raised to date.
  • 3 companies have reached a valuation of over a US$1 billion. A further 37 are worth over US$100 million.
  • And yes, 13 companies closed up.

I am somewhat stunned that others have not copied this model. There again, these numbers do explain why thousands of international investors, assumedly many from countries not normally associated with Israel, will be converging on Jerusalem this week.






Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been charged with three counts of breach of trust and one count of bribery.

For years, I have considered Netanyahu a great Finance Minister – just right for what was need in his time on the job. At the top, he has been excellent in extending Israel’s connections with many countries, which had previously ignored the state. However, I am not too sympathetic regarding his current legal problems, although he has many articulate followers.

The web is full of comment and satire. I would just like to draw my readers attention to a couple of readings.

The Fall and the Fall of the Smollett Empire by David Wiseman is a seemingly innocuous blog. He makes the well known point that if you lie and are caught out, it is rarely best to lie again in order to cover up. Wiseman surmises:

The worst thing about scandals is that people in positions of power manipulate the trust that comes with that position- in order to facilitate the cover-up. “Do you think we would actually do bad stuff? We’re the ones you come to when you have problems.” ….This is what incompetent educators, crooked politicians, bent police and morally bankrupt clergy stand behind which makes the original crime even more horrific.

Sometimes, society is complicit in the cover-up, burying its head in the sand as the truth is too upsetting to hear.

Hmm. I think it is obvious how I draw a connection to the Netanyahu issue.

In parallel, Matthew Kalman was active on Facebook last night. He drew the attention of his audience to a book he had co-authored back in 2013: Pyschobibi.

Great title, but what does it mean? The writers are journalists, not psychologists, but they argued that Netanyahu is driven by two background conditions. First, his father was a political outsider and learned to cope with that rejection. Second, his father preferred the elder son Yoni, something which the brother found difficult to accept.

The upshot is not just a will to succeed, almost at all costs. I am not sure that I agree with all of the premise. However, you have to wonder. Why in the name of the devil has Netanyahu ensured that the ultra right wing, Otzma Yehudit party, will be represented in the next Kenesset?

The point is that this group is the direct descendent of Rabbi Meir Kahana, who was murdered two decades ago. Accused of nationalist socialist policies, I clearly remember as a university student going to hear him rabble rouse in 1981 in Jerusalem to decide for myself. I had just finished a course on the rise of Hitler. The man spoke just like – themes and mannerisms – the former German Chancellor. I was disgusted.

And it is those policies that Netanyahu wants to see in the next Kenesset, at least in order to keep himself in power. I do not want to say any more.

Client Feedback

"Michael transformed the way I think and approach working, and also how to monetize my social media and communal projects."

CEO of digital media company

"Michael helped my high tech company take off."

CEO of clean energy start up

"Michael has been an invaluable resource to me throughout all of the steps of starting up my business."

Art Studio owner

CEO of digital media company
CEO of clean energy start up
Art Studio owner