Israel Business Forum

The third annual Israel Business Forum was held this past week. This is an event to match potential investors with Messianic Jewish and Arab Christian entrepreneurs in Israel. I have attended this event since its inception. This year our law firm was one of the sponsors. Messianic Jews have historically been discriminated against and persecuted in Israel, viewed by many as outsiders and/or missionaries. However, as the second generation of Messianic Jews grew up here and most served admirably in the military, Israeli public opinion began to change. The next step was for Messianic Jews to integrate into the Israeli workforce, open businesses and begin to thrive. This was the motivation behind the establishment of the Israel Business Forum.

The Forum event is the culmination of a several-month business training course conducted by the creators of the forum, First Fruits led by Mordechai Wiseman (grandson of Eliezer Urbach – one of the fathers of modern Messianic Judaism) and ELY Israel led by Yoel Shoshani, son of Oded Shoshani, one of the current Messianic leaders in Israel. In my view it’s one of the best Messianic Jewish efforts in the land. This year was a two-day event. About 50 foreign investors attended, mostly from the US but also from China, Europe, Australia and a few other places. In addition, certain non-Messianic hi-tech companies from Israel were invited to make presentations to the investors. This is another example of integrating the Messianic Jewish community into the mainstream of Israeli society.

I learned a lot. For example, as a percentage of gross domestic product, Israel has the highest level of civilian research and development of any country in the world. Israel is only second to the United States in its number of hi-tech startup companies. Israel is number four in activity in the world’s stock exchanges. Just in the past five years, while the average growth of developed countries was 0.6%, Israel was 4%. The unemployment rate in these same countries averaged 7.4%; Israel’s is 5.3%, even lower than the US.

Some of the Israeli inventions presented to the Forum included a brain mapping system in which brain injuries are mapped on a computer, potentially assisting up to 2 billion people with brain disorders. A system to determine how much water is needed by crops in a given field was designed, something that can save farmers up to 75% of water usage. The farmers can download the information to a mobile device. Another presenter showed how the entire password phenomenon on the web can be replaced by face-recognition software. I got to test it myself, even trying to trick the system by wearing a mask that was identical to the creator’s face – a method used by Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible to gain access to a secure facility. In this case the software recognized it was not a real face -- amazing!

In the afternoon of that first day, the Messianic community presented some of their better and established business plans. These included a medical device manufacturing company, an outgrowth of one of the oldest Messianic businesses in the country. Apparently, Israel has the highest number of medical device patents per capita in the world. This company manufacturers special medicine injectors, a machine that detects cancer cells, infusion pumps, a device that helps the body to absorb insulin more quickly, a blood warmer used in surgeries, and more. They have a state of the art facility along the Sea of Galilee. An Arab Christian from Nazareth runs a software company and shared his story of how the original owner of the Messianic business discussed above gave him his first serious job in Israel after most turned him down because he is an Arab. Today, he runs a successful company with several Arab Christian employees. Another Messianic Jew runs his own financial investment company in Israel, the only Messianic Jew to have passed Israel’s Securities and Investment exams.

The second day was devoted to highlighting Messianic Jewish business ideas in a large exhibition hall. Our law firm had a table, and we went around networking with the other businesses and the foreign investors. In the afternoon eight owners of the best business ideas presented their plans to the investors and were questioned by business management experts. Some of the ideas were extremely clever and innovative, including a company that converts used wooden pallets into furniture with plans to hire women delivered from prostitution to give them new careers, the developer and manufacturer of gluten free breads and pastries to enable those allergic to gluten to enjoy the foods they had to give up (I tasted a sampling of the bread – delicious, couldn’t tell between gluten and gluten free), and a company that hires native English speakers to teach English around the country (Israeli schools require English proficiency to even graduate). I talked to this woman about Stacy’s currently tutoring in English, and she was very excited to contact her.

After the business exhibition, some panels were held on investing in Israel and purchasing real estate in Israel. Here’s where we had a big surprise. One of the key panelists couldn’t attend because of a family emergency. The forum sponsors then approached us about Alex, one of my partners, making a presentation and answering questions about real estate investments. He was reluctant to do it because the entire forum was conducted in English, and he felt his English skills were inadequate. However, he agreed to do it, did a good job and received some potential clients for his efforts.

All in all it was a very successful event. Please pray for two outcomes: 1) that some investors will step up and invest in some of these budding companies; 2) that we will gain new clients for our efforts.