Israel@60 Mission: From Yad Vashem to V.C.

In the span of just a few hours, Israel@60 mission members today went from Yad Vashem's shattering tableau of despair to the promise of a powerhouse the galloping Israeli economy.

Yad Vashem - Photo by Susie Roy Photo by Susie Roy

On the first full day of the mission, the day dawned bright and beautiful. All the tracks began our day's schedule at Yad Vashem, touring the new $50 million museum there. There could be no greater example of architecture serving the message than this structure, an extended prism-shaped building cantilivered over the the mountaintop. One can see all the way down the long granite hall, but one cannot walk directly to the brightly-lit end... one must first detour into side rooms which chronicle the spectacular tragedy of the Holocaust. The guides -- all of whom must train for a year before taking groups through the museum -- recounted with passion this greatest of history's crimes. It doesn't matter how many times you've seen "Schindler's List," there is no way to pass through this exhibit -- with its countless authentic relics of the Nazi era, the dreath camps, and personal effects of victims -- without choking back tears. Most of us were rendered speechless. From there, the business track went on for an informative day at Beit Shmuel (a Reform institution), starting with a presentation from Gidi Grinstein, founder of the Reut Institute. He offered up a macro-view of Israeli society, linking it to ancient Israel and Jewish communities in Diaspora. He emphasized the Jewish commitment to sustaining Jewish community, federation style, even going back centuries, but he stressed that modern Israel faces challenges that could fray its delicate dynamism, among them terrorism and decreasing support around the world. His solution: a Zionism of the 21st Century that retains its valuable talents here in Israel while continuing to lure investment. "We can play global," he told the roomful of Bay Area business leaders. Yossi Bachar, a former finance minister, next spoke about Israel's transition from socialism to a market economy. He developed a Reaganesque prescription of tax cuts, budget cuts and budget discipline that turned the economy around in the last few years. Then it was the turn of the money men. Bobby Lent, Robert Blum, Barry Cohn (all part of the mission) along with bio-tech nagnate Martin Gerstel and venture capital maven Alan Feld, took the more micro-view of the economy and investment climate. Bottom line: despite some cultural impediments, this country is ripe for a tremendous growth in capital investment. And, as an added bonus, we can feel good as Jews by helping to build the Jewish state. Blog b'Omer (Dan Pine)

Categories: Israel


May 02, 2008


The Federation