Archive for September 2008

Paul McCartney in Israel

September 29, 2008

Thursday, 25th 2008 will remain a special day in my life. After blah blah years and decades, I had an opportunity to fulfill a life-long dream. I saw Paul McCartney, live, on stage, singing.

Sure, I was so far back that he was only a dot on the eye. Sure, he was missing three other members of the Fab 4. And, he was past 64. It did not matter for one second of my 2 hour and 20 minute joy ride.

The press had made much that the Beatles had been banned from appearing in Israel way back in 1965. Was the cancellation due to a clash between two local impressarios? Did the government of the day really believe that the young crooners would corrupt the youth? Or was it that the country was so strapped for foreign currency reserves and could not afford the entertainment, that the cancellation was based on a made up excuse?

More relevant is what this concert means to Israel today? For me this is simple: For all Macca’s visit to Bethlehem and his wishing the audience “Ramadan Karim”, he gave Israel what it has longed for – a kosher certificate.

He is so big that no longer can any artist find an excuse not to visit. Finally and utterly – Israel is on the map in the world of music and live concerts. The country offers performers first class facilities. In return, they should be here to honour their fans.

One irony: Maca constantly used the theme of giving peace a chance. great, the region needs it. And yet, for me the best song of the night was “Live And Let Die” withe explosive guitar solos and effects. Smile; it’s the Middle East.

Lessons in managment from Israel

September 24, 2008

I was told of a group of Israelis, who underwent a psychometric test for junior management positions in the local civil service. They were examined on their Hebrew, given an assignemnt in time management, asked to identify the wrong picture in a sequence, and more.

At the end, one of the participants asked if the senior managers had undertaken such a test. Others laughed, but there was clearly more than a tinge of poignancy in the question.

Personally, I don’t see why drawing a tree with roots or a family with people of correct proportionate sizes means that you are capable to carry out satisfactorily an administrative task. But the whole exercise got me thinking.

Let’s take all these high flying bank execs and sales people around the word. Many have been earning fat bonuses for years on what have proved to be financially unsecure policies. They frequently obtained their position by going to the right school, knowing the correct person, or just through the gift of the gab.

Perhaps a better way to assess human potential is to make them draw pictures and analyse simplified test scenarios. It might save the world from a world recession.

World economic crisis? Count Israel out

September 23, 2008

Lehman Brothers has disappeared. Halifax in the UK was sold overnight. And in Israel?

The shops are full, as people prepare for the Jewish New Year or the end of Ramadan. Banks are still rolling in the profits. Unemployment is at a record low.

And high tech? Well I can report form own perspective. I have one client, where contracts are being drawn up re a UK investor. Another has received 2 proposals from mainland Europe.

These are not freak incidences. A colleagues told me today that an investor, who last week informed him that a project looked interesting, is about to pop over to Israel to complete the deal. And so it goes on.

I find 2 lessons here:

a) The collapse on Wall Street and elsewhere was sparked by stupidities in the mortgage market in one country (and rising commodity prices). That does not mean all global economies are rotten.

b) The Israeli market has undergone some harsh restructuring since the previous high tech dive in  1999. It will not escape unscathed. However, it still has what to offer the outside world, especially in investment opportunities. Time for a visit.

Women and the Israeli labour force

September 21, 2008

I have just heard a fascinating approach to helping women enter the labour market in Israel.

What’s so special about that? Ultra-orthodox or Haredi women have often been held back from working. Their culture and society effectively “keep them in the kitchen and nurseries” even when they have solid qualifications. Other factors, such as not working directly with men or high maternity levels, have kept them unemployed.

Along comes Ms Libie Affen. A feminist? I am not so sure. Libie is a Haredi lady with a masters degree and the COO of Matrix, a leading Israeli high tech company. With a spin off from matrix, she has established a profitable company to employ Haredi es, to give them the conditions they require, and to produce quality output as demanded by Fortune 500 companies.

She currently employs 450 ladies, most of them software engineers or equivalent. One of the conditions is that they are provided rivate transport to and from the client. This allows them to deal with children int he evening and protect their modesty demands.

Now here’s the real “wow” factor. Libie has been asked to explain this model to a female cooperative in Detroit. And to take this one step further, the Palestinian Authority has also been in contact.

Why did I write this? Did you realise that Israel is about to swear in a female Prime Minister. She will sit along side the female head of the Supreme Court and Madam Speaker of the Kenesset.

Cleantech in Israel

September 18, 2008

A few weeks ago, I attended a panel discussion on the cleantech industry in Israel. Fascinating stuff. For example, it turns out that this tiny mass in the Middle East leads the world in solar tech. 

And that is not all. We grow algae in the dessert and send the production abroad. Shai Agassi’s non-fossel powered car is developed in Israel. Irrigaion techniques have moved far forward form computer linked sprinklers.

I was recently commissioned to investigate some greentech opportunities for a UK based investment group. I thought that I had seen eveything, but there was more to come.

I have met a company generating commercial power for communities out of manure and sewage. Another corporation is creating cooling systems out of crystals. And a third group has designed a housing complex where the power used is self-generated amongst the dwelling units.

These companies are earnestly seeking sales streams abroad, and they deserve all the success they can receive.

What the UK offers an Israeli company

September 12, 2008

For the past year, I have been a member of the board the Israel-Britain Chamber of Commerce. The organisation was recently involved in coordinating the visit of the British Minister of Trade, Lord Digby Jones.

Now get hold of this:  “Over the past decade, bilateral trade has grown by 40 per cent and is now worth over £2.3 billion pounds. …..  more than 250 Israeli companies now located in the UK…. and 47 Israeli companies listed on London stock exchanges, with 41 having joined in the last three years.”
  
Lord Jones said his government organisation UK Trade & Investment, which is responsible for promoting the UK international business, is committed to securing another 25 more inward investment projects from Israel by 2010.
 

What an opportunity for Israeli companies. The Brits are actually giving a direct entry int the vast network of European trading relationships. Just hop on board.


Israeli or Palestinian Society

September 11, 2008

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

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