Billionaire Bets on Arabs of Nazareth To Advance Dream for Israel

For Stef Wertheimer, Peace Path Runs Through Industrial Park

Picture of Opportunity: Israeli tycoon Stef Wertheimer expects the $22 million he has sunk into this shiny industrial park in the predominantly Arab town of Nazareth to pay dividends — in more ways than one.
ofer blanc
Picture of Opportunity: Israeli tycoon Stef Wertheimer expects the $22 million he has sunk into this shiny industrial park in the predominantly Arab town of Nazareth to pay dividends — in more ways than one.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published June 23, 2013, issue of June 28, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

He’s just made billions selling the company that he started in his backyard to Warren Buffett, so you may think that it’s time for 86-year-old Stef Wertheimer to take it easy.

Instead, Wertheimer, one of Israel’s wealthiest citizens, is today putting most of his energy into the Arab town of Nazareth.

There, in the presence of Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, he has just opened a $22 million industrial park that is expected to generate 1,000 jobs.

The park, part of Wertheimer’s bigger dream of many such projects that will serve as a vehicle for promoting Jewish-Arab cooperation and national development, may sound like one more idealistic coexistence effort. But this is a project of the Arab mainstream, not just of coexistence activists. Wertheimer’s project manager is none other than Shawki Khatib chairman of the main umbrella group for Arab Israelis — the High Follow-up Committee, which was established in response to confrontations with the police and army in 1976 that left six Arabs dead.

Sitting in his Tel Aviv office, which has a stupendous view of the Mediterranean, Wertheimer could not be clearer about how he intends to deploy the huge pile of cash on which he now sits.

“I need money to build parks,” he told the Forward. “I will build more parks. That’s all I’m interested in.”

The neighboring and predominantly Jewish town of Nazareth Illit has several industrial areas, including the large Ziporit Industrial Park. But until now, there hasn’t been a single industrial park in an Arab locale in all of Israel.

Peres shares Wertheimer’s vision. “This is the best statement for coexistence between Jews and Arabs, it is truly significant, not just empty words,” he declared at the opening ceremony, held on April 23.

It’s easy to understand Wertheimer’s enthusiasm for the new park. It is a remarkable, ultra-modern building with art displays dominating the public spaces and more of the feel of a faculty center at a high-class university than of a manufacturing hub. It seems a world away from the crowded residential areas of Nazareth.

In a few weeks, when units have been customized to business tenants’ needs, there will be a steady flow of Arab and Jewish workers to and from Arab-owned companies like Alpha Omega, which makes neuroscience technology; international firms like the software giant Amdocs, and possibly, in the future, Jewish-owned firms, as well. Tax benefits and subsidies encourage companies to move here as Nazareth lies within a government-designated priority area for development.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.