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2005 - Stefan Wertheimer - Israel

Mr. Stefan Wertheimer

Founder of ISCAR, Ltd.

Forced to flee Nazi Germany at the age of 10, Stef Wertheimer has long recognized the importance of Israel to the survival of the Jewish people. Although he trained as a pilot in the War of Independence, he served in the Palmach as a close technical aide to Yigal Alon developing armaments.

Since then, he has spent his life fostering the economic independence of Israel and promoting peaceful coexistence with its neighbors. Export manufacturing and educational initiatives have been the vehicles to achieve these goals.

The firm he founded in 1952, ISCAR, Ltd., is today one of the world’s top two manufacturers of precision carbide cutting tools. These precision tools are used in the automotive, aerospace, and electronics industries. In May 2013, Warren Buffett purchased the remaining shares of ISCAR, making it wholly owned and operated by Berkshire Hathaway.

In 1967, in response to Charles de Gaulle’s embargo on French weapons to Israel, Mr. Wertheimer began to manufacture jet engine blades. What began as a liability was transformed into a strategic asset: no longer was the Israeli Air Force dependent on imported blades. Recently, Pratt and Whitney and Rolls Royce have both become partners with him in the creation of Blades Technologies International, Inc. and TechJet. He has also recently created a third international blades industry in Xian, China.

Since 1982, Mr. Wertheimer has built seven industrial parks. The original park, at Tefen in the Galilee, created an unusual model that has been replicated at Tel Hai, Lavon, Omer, and Dalton. In the spring of 2013, Wertheimer opened his latest park in the Arab city of Nazareth. The seventh park – the first to be built outside of Israel – has been active since 2005 in Gebze, Turkey, near Istanbul. It is a successful joint venture with Turkish partners.

In 1999, he worked closely with Palestinians, who wished to emulate his successful model. The Israeli and Palestinian governments approved this initiative, which would have stimulated the Palestinian economy. The idea was to create twin industrial parks—one Palestinian, the other Israeli—on either side of the border. These parks were expected, ultimately, to enjoy the benefits of a free trade zone. The second Intifada, however, prevented its construction.

All of his parks are designed to promote export and to ensure a better quality of life. To encourage a new generation of entrepreneurs, they include incubator facilities for start-up firms. They also offer cultural facilities, schools, and aesthetic landscapes. In addition, Mr. Wertheimer has built designed communities near several of the parks.

Mr. Wertheimer’s contributions have been honored in a variety of ways. From 1977-1981, he served in the Ninth Israeli Knesset as a member of the DASH party. Of his many awards, none is more meaningful to him than his nation’s highest honor, the Israel Prize, bestowed in 1991. In 2010, he received the Business for Peace Award in Oslo, Norway, and in 2011 the Technion honored him for his outstanding achievements. A year later, President Joachim Gauck of Germany -- the nation from which he was forced to flee -- bestowed on him that country’s highest honor, the Federal Cross of Merit. His deep commitment to education has led him to establish technical and entrepreneurial programs. He has been awarded honorary degrees from Tel Aviv University, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Pratt University/NYU, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Bard College, Brandeis University, the Weizmann Institute, and the Hebrew Union College. He also received the Honorary Meister degree from the Chamber of Crafts of the Stuttgart Region (Handwerkskammer Stuttgart) – the first and only time they have made such an award.