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6 Entrepreneurship and Management for Social Integration, Welfare and Peace (specifically in the Middle East)

What metabolism is for the biological organism, economy is for a nation. Together with Education it also builds the backbone of society. If one of them is weak, the whole body collapses. A sound and balanced functioning and interrelation of both is needed to grant welfare, maximum equal conditions and social justice for a multi cultural society as ours. Altogether both are needed not only for survival, but moreover for providing a solid ground for psychological development and spiritual growth for its members.

Now, by its size, its geography as well as its history and cultural and economic affiliation, Israel is the perfect place to realize the genuine ideas of the great Keynes-hailed pioneer in post-modern economic and industrial development, Fritz Schumacher. Having gained worldwide attention through his revolutionary/visionary books “Small is Beautiful” and “Guide for the Perplexed” (being a parallel to Rambam’s classic), he has proved the workability and effectivity of his ideas not so much as a genius theoretician, but rather as a profound practitioner. And it is non-less then the internationally recognized Israeli Industrialist Stef Wertheimer, who in his “Tefen-model” has provided the perfect adaptation and further development of Schumacher’s ideas in Israel, and beyond that developed his much acclaimed “Marshall Plan for the Middle East”. By his idealistic grandeur and charismatic genius he has become an idol for young entrepreneurs, managers and other professionals concerned with the development of the area.

Inspired by his commitment and convinced about the great value of Steff’s endeavor, we have integrated his “Industrial Entrepreneurship and Management Course for Arab and Jewish Participants” into the program of our Center. This Course in Economy is not basic, but a Post-University Study and Master Class, designed specifically for a mixed body of deserving post-graduate students and young Israeli and Palestinian Entrepreneurs. It is being held at the academic campus of the Lavon industrial park in Western Galilee or any other residential facility. Headed by professor Seev Hirsch of the Recanati Business School, Tel Aviv University, the course is being offered by LAHAV, the executive training division of the School, in cooperation with Zur / Lavon, the academic arm of Industrial Parks Ltd. and CJAED, the Center for Jewish and Arab Economic Development. Over two hundred persons completed the course, which, has been offered seven times by the spring of 2006. The eighth session is planned for January 2007.

Objectives: The course was masterminded and financed in large part by Steff Wertheimer. lt is intended for Arab and Jewish university graduates, seeking to become entrepreneurs. The goals of this enterprise are social, political and economic; namely to help reduce the gap between the standard of living and economic development levels of the Arab and Jewish communities in Israel. We believe that these goals can be advanced by improving the managerial skills and capabilities of potential entrepreneurs from both communities, and by creating conditions, which will encourage Arab/Jewish business cooperation.

Entrepreneurship is commonly regarded as a characteristic, acquired at birth. How can one teach entrepreneurship? Indeed, entrepreneurship, i.e. the ability to mobilize and employ the resources needed to establish and run non-existent ventures, cannot be taught in a classroom. However, even those individuals who possess the entrepreneurial spirit must acquire the managerial skills and technical knowledge required in the modern business world. The course is designed to acquaint participants with these techniques, thus helping them to realize their entrepreneurial potential on the one hand, while expanding potential Arab/Jewish business cooperation, on the other. In addition, the course provides participants with opportunities to work together and to transform entrepreneurial ideas into business plans.

Course Program: The qualification of a young entrepreneur, business person or manager should embrace: clear and quick apprehension of economic inter-relations on large scale and beyond mere know-how, courage, fearlessness, inventiveness, wide-ranging and holistic economic thinking, eye-measure for sound opportunities, marginal conditions, effective use of natural and human resources, investment and risk.

The program, which consists of three weekly residential sessions, lasting five days each, includes lectures, workshops and group projects. Subjects taught include organizational behavior and structure, human resource management, cost and financial accounting, marketing, finance, management of information systems, labor law, company law, taxation, etc.

Group projects are the centerpiece of the course. Students are divided into groups of four to five. Each group is composed of Arab and Jewish participants, who work on carefully selected business projects, under the supervision of professional instructors.

The idea of the project ties in with the goal of the course, to promote business entrepreneurship and Arab/Jewish business cooperation. Seeking to identify students with an entrepreneurial potential, candidates are being asked to outline business projects they seek to promote, as part of the admission process. Suitable projects are assigned to the project groups discussed above, which are expected to develop them further into preliminary business plans. These projects may or may not form the basis of future cooperation. The experience of working together on real life business problems is bound, in any case, to bring lasting benefits to the participants.

Phase II: Graduates of the course are being offered the opportunity to develop their own business ideas within the framework of what we term Phase II. After screening the projects submitted by the graduates we assign professional coaches to each. The coaches advise on the preparation of business plans, ready for presentation to potential investors. To date more then twenty-five projects have been approved. Some of these projects, submitted by both Jews and Arabs, are purely local in terms of their scope. Others are regional, covering Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Neighboring countries‘ markets. Finally, certain projects, especially those involving Information- and Bio-technology, are in most cases truly global.

Background: A related and somewhat more ambitious project, intended for Palestinians and Israelis from areas bordering on the Gaza Strip, was in the final planning stages four years ago. The program, developed jointly with the Palestinian Authority, was to be linked to a large-scale project involving two industrial parks to be constructed along the Gaza Strip border had to be shelved when the Intifada broke out in October 2000. The present project, much more modest in scope, is based on a similar vision: promotion of economic intercourse between Arabs and Jews as a means of reducing intercommunal antagonism.

Experience has taught us that the prospects of economic cooperation, even when highly beneficial to all parties cannot in themselves promote peace. However, when the political will for peace is there, economic relations can help reinforce it provided they are wisely nurtured. This conclusion holds for relations between Arabs and Jews within Israel, as well as for relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Altogether modern Entrepreneurs need to acquire a self-understanding, which is going much beyond that of ordinary business-people of old style, but as builders of societies and nations! It is them who together with educators, spiritual leaders and authorities in ethics, who mold the character and future living conditions of post-modern societies and nations in a global world. 

Project Director: Seev Hirsch, Emeritus Professor, The Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business, Tel Aviv University;