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.

Over the past decade Israel has received a lousy press abroad on the subject of human rights. Strange that for a country which has full freedom of worship, has non-Jews in its Parliament representating several political parties, and has a myriad of national papers.

By way of comparison, yesterday I received a report from the Ramallah-based Independent Commission for Human Rights. Every month they highlight abuses by Palestinian officials in Gaza and the West Bank. Using names, dates, places, in August 2008 alone, they refer to: –

    • 1 female citizen who died through so-called “honour crimes”
    • 8 citizens were reported to have been killed in family fights and acts of revenge
    • 15 complaints from citizens alleging that they were subjected to torture while they were being detained or interrogated. In the Gaza Strip, ICHR received 7 grievances from citizens, claiming that they were subjected to torture.
    • Attacks on charitable houses and orphanages
    • Interference with the legal system
    • Blocking distribution of daily newspapers

  • ~

It is said that the Israeli economy has grown by over 30% in 5 years, despite wars and the Intifada. The Palestinian economy is just the opposite.

The best proof for this came from Nigel Roberts, a senior offical at the World Bank. He has noted that Palestinians receive the highest level of aid per capita in the world, but implies that little seems to come of it.

And now along comes a report from Israel’s Civil Administration, responsible for the social and economic welfare of the West Bank. It starts by saying that as a result of less violence in the region, over 100 roadblocks have been removed. And thus?

Unemployment is dropping fast, although still too high at 19%. Tourism in places like Bethlehem has nearly doubled upto June 2008. Agricultural exports to Israel are up 25%, even after a disasterous weather spell. And so on.

This all generates real income, which assumedly must filter to the average man in the street. This will weaken the dependence on aid. And it was this aid, which seemed to feed only the violence and thus, ironically, into stabilising previous poverty levels.

The fallout of the mortgage crisis in America and the rise in commodity prices have begun to affect the Israeli economy, but to waht extent?

For the past 5 – 6 years, the stats show an economy that has grown by over 30%. No wonder the OECD wants Israel as a member. As for 2008, only last week, unemployment fell to another low of 5.9%. Time lag until it rises back up? Maybe, but all the predictions still say growth this year will round off at about 4%.

Now compare that to other countries.

Evidently, there are some underlying strengths within the Israeli financial scene that over weigh short term international economic changes. I was talking last week to a senior planner in the Ministry of Trade. Currently, the forecast for 2009 is growth around the 3.5% mark, well beyond almost all of Israel’s competitors.

I have spent 3 days, introducing a group of savvy German investment officers to the wonders of Israel. These guys travel extensively. They were supported to 2 class-acts of IT experts. And yet……

First, they were introduced to the wonders of the Investment Promotion Authority. It would be unwise to dismiss this team as just another set of boring civil servants. In a dry but professional manner, they made the point that Israel, specifically Jerusalem, has much to offer a new r&d centre. Consider Intel with its massive plant in the north of the city – they American giant has already sank US$5.75 billion int Israel.

Then we met with the biz dev group of Ernst & Young in Israel. They linked us up with a series of private seed investors. The range was clearly beyond anything known or anticipated by our visitors.

Next steps? The Germans had wanted to take the development process over to Europe. They now realise that this would force them to abandon the commercial and techniocal expertise available in the Holy land.

I was recently chatting to a business coach in Israel. I was surprised to see that when it came to time management, most of his clients are senior managers, even CEOs.


We are talking about people with experience, at the peak of their careers .  Either they have set up the company or they have risen through the ranks, ending up at the top of the tree. So you would expect them to be able to manage their time and know how to run a company efficiently.


Ask yourself candidly: Are you really in control of your time? In the average day, how many hours are you forced to allocate to putting out fires rather than creating new opportunities. What proportion of time is given over to matching the demands of the CEO, so that we forget why we came to work?


Here are three simple tips, which will are designed to improve your use of time.

1)      Don’t spend the first few minutes of the day checking your diary, sorting out what you need to do. Empirically this is considered the most productive part of many people’s day. That task should have been completed at the end of the previous day.

2)      When you allocate tasks for specific days, assign them a period of time, just as if they are an appointment. This allows you to visualise clearly exactly how much time you have for other tasks and so called emergencies.

3)      Think in advance who is going to demand something from you and preempt the issue.


And here’s the catch, as the coach commented back to me. Most of us know about these tips. What we refuse to recognize is that we do not act on them. And what many are afraid to ask is “why” – what’s stopping us carrying out the obvious.


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