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!
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • 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.