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March 01, 1996 - Image 58

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-03-01

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Seeking Trust
and Estate Planning

An Israeli Rebel
With A Cause


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_...Find It All In
The Jewish News
Call 354-5959

ew people can look out the ing on optical equipment.
Back in Palestine after the
window and see their life-
time accomplishments war, he fought during the War of
spread out before them. Independence with the Palm.ach's
Stef Wertheimer, quintessential crack units. Then, at 23, he
champion of private enterprise, launched his career. At first he
ultimate foe of big government, assumed the somewhat humble
and arguably Israel's most suc- position of technical consultant
cessful industrialist ever, is clear- to the nascent military indus-
tries, at the time located in the
ly among that select few.
From his spacious office at the northern coastal town of Na-
Western Galilee headquarters of hariya. There he produced his
his multimillion-dollar precision own cutting tools with a lathe in
cutting-tool business Iscar, Mr. a shack. That was the beginning
Wertheimer can see the Tefen In- of Iscar.
An old veteran of pitched bat-
dustrial Park, a unique hothouse
he created for successful export tles with bureaucrats and a crit-
industries. Just down the hill ic of fashionable obsession with
is Kfar Havradim (Rose-Garden capital markets, Mr. Wertheimer
Village), a model community of is convinced Israeli law aims to
3,000 that provides the highest, penalize people who want to pro-
quality of life in the area, anoth- duce and encourages "those who
er Wertheimer initiative. A few play with money." It's bad in any
hills beyond is the Zur Industri- case, he explains, but particular-
al Institute, his latest pet project, ly for a country with a peace
which is still under construc-
The jewel in the crown is un-
doubtedly Iscar, the machine-
tool empire. Considering that
sales in the first three-quarters
of last year were almost as
much as the entire previous
year, some analysts believe the
company, which sells Japanese
car makers some of the tools
with which their robots work,
is well on its way to an annu-
al $1 billion turnover.
Not a bad achievement list
for someone about to turn 70.
Even so, Mr. Wertheimer
prefers to look ahead.
"Gazing out this window, I see process and an identity dilemma.
A man of unambiguous views,
empty hills. I see a country that
has yet to be built. And I have to Mr. Wertheimer believes Israeli
hurry up to do all the things I leaders are still too occupied with
security issues to properly ad-
want to do," he says.
Perhaps ifis this constant dis- dress long-term economic and ed-
satisfaction that has been Mr. ucational issues.
With this kind of attitude, Mr.
Wertheimer's driving force. Un-
happy with the government's Wertheimer naturally joined the
record on privatization, he reformist Democratic Movement
laments a lingering "exile men- for Change, and in fact served as
tality" of dependence on others' a Knesset member in the late
largesse, and he disparages the 1970s. But politics wasn't for him.
system which "rewards" the stock Frustrated with the "talking, not
market's "casino players." It's as doing" he witnessed in
Wall he's ever done was meant to Jerusalem, he returned in 1981
prove one point: The most im- to the hills of Galilee to do what
portant national pursuit is in- he does best and likes most.
Three years later he turned over
dustrial export.
Born in Weimar, Germany, daily operation of Iscar and his
Mr. Wertheimer came to Pales- two other companies, Blades
tine with his family two years be- Technology and Plasal, to his son.
Mr. Wertheimer's passion for
fore the outbreak of World War
II, at age 11. A rebellious kid, he education is equaled only by his
got kicked out of school for fight- faith in the Galilee and the
ing, and went to work as a life- Negev, which he believes will
gradually become the main na-
Later, he began working in op- tional source of innovation. "I
tics, and served with the British don't see Jerusalem or Tel Aviv
Royal Air Force in Bahrain work- renewing themselves," he says.


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