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The Israel Factor

Israel Bonds New Leadership: Continuing the Legacy
By Victoria D. Andretta

A commemorative plaque displayed in Jerusalem’s King David Hotel marks
the site of the inaugural conference led by former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion
in September 1950, which resulted in the founding of Israel Bonds, a $40 billion
success story spanning over 60 years. 

In the aftermath of the War of Independence which left the newly-founded State of Israel in a financial and societal crisis, then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion set forth on a mission to build the Jewish nation.  Under his dominion, he sought to engage the modern Diaspora and Jews worldwide by providing them a fiscal utility to invest in the prosperity of the new homeland, and by successful materialization of the Israel Bonds venture he was able to accomplish his goals, thereby achieving economic sanctity for the reborn state.
But securing the continuity and prolonging the legacy of bond investment to nourish the Jewish establishment would be the ultimate feat, as a methodical plan to reach future generations of bondholders was conclusively devised decades later.  Fast forward to 1979, when a select group of influential young couples were invited to Washington to form the Israel Bonds New Leadership Division, and New Leadership Chairman Ron Krongold and his wife Glenda auspiciously led a 120-member delegation to Israel and visited 22 U.S. cities to spur support for Israel Bonds. As their collaborative efforts produced tremendous acclaim, the New Leadership Division proved to be a winning tour de force and paved the way for a succession of new leaders.
Current Vice Chairman of the Board Howard Goldstein advanced through the hierarchy of New Leadership, serving as Miami’s local chairman for eight years and subsequently North American New Leadership chairman, followed by positions as chairman of the Miami campaign and national chairman of professions.  Like many of his colleagues and fellow pro-Israel supporters, Goldstein understood the importance of strengthening the ties of the young Jewish populace to Israel in order to secure the nation’s prolonged success, as did his wife Marcy, who was instrumental in forming numerous delegations to Israel and annual galas for New Leadership. Recalling his earlier days assisting in organizing Bonds-driven events specifically catered to reaching burgeoning Jewish leaders, Goldstein remarks: “The goal of the New Leadership Division has always been to create opportunities where young people have the chance to unite and celebrate Judaism, bond over appreciation for Israel, and band together as a global stronghold to protect and perpetuate the thriving of a nation that has a reputation for triumph when faced with what seemed like unsurmountable challenges. In my role as vice chairman of the board we are presently witnessing more younger leadership procure board positions than ever before.” 
Present Chairman of the Board Richard L. Hirsch, also heavily engrained in the upbringing of New Leadership, confirms Goldstein’s observations asserting, “Today’s youth are representations of tomorrow’s emerging leaders, and it is imperative that we instill in them the desire to influence change in response to the growing needs of Israel’s economy and our organization.”     
In early December 2017, Bonds’ board member Jason Schwartz along with Chair of National New Leadership David Matz, took heed of the duty bestowed on them by Hirsch, Goldstein, the Krongolds and other current and former Bonds visionaries, and embarked on a journey to Wimberley and Austin, Texas, welcoming a select group of 40 young professionals from seven countries across three continents to Camp Young Judaea to usher in the inaugural Bonds Bootcamp New Leadership Retreat.  The three-day expedition brought tenacious, worldly progenies to meet fellow New Leadership members and to learn from Israel Bonds senior leadership, lay leaders and staff about ways to become more involved in the Bonds enterprise and to increase their knowledge on the significance of investing. 

Israel Bonds National New Leadership Division Bootcamp Retreat participants 
and staff conclude a full schedule of seminars, discussions and engaging 
activities over a three-day weekend in December 2017 at Camp Young Judaea 
in Wimberley, Texas (Photo: Harold Fisch)

Eagerly bound to an eventful itinerary, young investors gained intelligence from guest speakers Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, Israel’s Ground Forces Attaché to the US, IDF Col. Yaron Beit-On, and heard from JSwipe founder David Yarus. The group networked with guests and presenters, and attended panel discussions, thought-provoking seminars and captivating workshops which focused on solidifying one’s connection with Israel and understanding how to serve as prominent young leaders in their respective communities to encourage Israel advocacy.
But amidst all the excitement and learning, perhaps the most resounding takeaways were the lessons taught by Bonds senior leadership and directives from peers.  President and CEO of Israel Bonds Israel Maimon spoke on the virtue of fortifying the younger generation’s connection to Eretz Israel and its people in a moving lecture.  Reading from Foundations: One Hundred Concepts in Judaism, a book by Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, former chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel and chairman of Yad Vashem, Maimon emphasized the affirmation of the venerated rabbi by stating, “Fostering the development of aspiring young leaders is a critical necessity for strengthening the ties between Israel and the Diaspora and the need to deepen the Jewish identity.”  
Panel participants and National New Leadership council members Jason Langsner and Teri Herbstman similarly reverberated the vocation of the Bonds mandate.  Langsner, also vice-chair of National New Leadership and avid pro-Israel essayist, encouraged the future trailblazers to be active within their cities and spread awareness of Bonds initiatives.  Herbstman, a passionate Israel supporter and philanthropist, illustrated ways that she invests such as donating purchased bonds to American universities in a demonstration to stand against anti-Semitism, and highlighted how Israel bonds can satisfy a double mitzvah by gifting them for life’s celebrations while simultaneously enhancing the Jewish homeland.   
As Jews around the world prepare for Israel’s momentous 70th anniversary, missions such as these created by the Bonds organization serve to inspire young luminaries by empowering them with guidance and knowledge, enabling them to uphold the tradition conceived by their family members of investing in Israel bonds to support the nation’s economy.  Through their persevering dedication and pride in their Jewish faith, the legacy of Israel bonds will continue for generations to come.

By Shira Lewis, Chair of Israel Bonds Women’s Division
I began my career as an analyst at a financial firm on Wall Street after earning my undergraduate degree at Columbia University and later received my MBA in Finance from NYU Stern. As the years went by, I made the move to the suburbs and established residence in Rockland County, NY, where a local Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds representative and I connected over our love for Israel and pride in our Jewish heritage.

From right, Shira Lewis, Chair of Israel Bonds Women’s Division,
pictured next to MK Sharren Haskel and Laura Orzy, Associate Chair,
Israel Bonds Women’s Division

Not long after, my involvement with the organization rapidly grew, and throughout my years as a lay leader and board member I have held several local positions.  On the national front, I have been a member of the DCI Board of Directors for several years, served as Associate Women’s Division Chair and most recently, Chair of the Women’s Division. I also became involved with our New Leadership Division, and since this division didn’t exist when I began my relationship with Bonds I’m thrilled that this new area of development was initiated to introduce new investors and unite council and delegate members who are equally inspired to contribute to the success of the State of Israel and its people. 

Shira Lewis (far right), stands next to Barbara Hutter, Barbara’s daughter
Jessica Hutter and Lauren Kramer in front of the Western Wall

In January 2018 I will be stepping down from my role as Women’s Division Chair, and I am extremely proud to have witnessed the division and organization grow over the years.  I will be celebrating my last event as Chair at the New Leadership Division expedition to Austin, TX in December of this year. 
Bringing people to Israel is my true passion. I feel a rush of excitement when I get to show people who have never been there the beauty and vigor of this great nation, and I enjoy learning from their perspective as they experience Israel through unbiased eyes with new friends.  I have been privileged to lead two delegations to Israel during my term as Women’s Division Chair, and during my first delegation in November of 2015, I had the honor of presenting the Israel Bonds Woman of Valor pin to Nechama Rivlin, Israel’s first lady, at a special meeting in which Mrs. Rivlin hosted fellow delegates at Beit HaNassi, official residence of the president of Israel. Connecting people closer to Israel and uniting the Jewish people through the Bonds organization and joining in its mission will always be dear to my heart.  I have been to Israel countless times, and my adoration for the Jewish homeland continues to grow as I experience new landmarks and developments as the country rapidly evolves. 
Every place is so outstanding, every person is unique and each has their own personal, emotional and spiritual goals as they embark on their journey to Israel.  Israel bonds not only enhance Israel’s economy but they also provide support for the achievements of Israel’s dynamic people.  The works of innovators, thought leaders, industrial pioneers and entrepreneurs alike are enabled by Israel bonds investors, as Israel bonds support every aspect of Israel’s economy.  Support of the Bonds organization by global investors is so important to the prosperity of the Jewish homeland.  

Shira Lewis (front center), stands with Israel Bonds Women’s Division
Israel delegates from Israel Bonds Rockland County, NY office

Israel is doing so many remarkable things including immigrant absorption. During the recent delegation we visited an Ethiopian Village by the name of Beit Ambousa, located in Gedera just outside of Tel Aviv. Beit Ambousa is home to Ethiopian Jews who departed Africa due to persecution and have sought refuge in a community that allows them to thrive and freely express their culture and practice the Jewish faith.  We were fortunate to be invited to the womens’ homes where they prepared authentic Ethiopian meals and encouraged us to learn from their ways in caring for their families as matriarchal leaders. 
We also met with female IDF soldiers on the delegation who were most welcoming, and there was a mutual appreciation and connection. We also met with dignitaries such as Nathalie Mimoun, Honorary Consul of France in Israel, MK Sharren Haskel and other Knesset leaders, and legacy visionaries such as Dalia Rabin, daughter of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin z’l as we toured the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv. All of these individuals are making a difference through their tremendous work and the Women’s Division is honored to share in their accomplishments.  
From the moment I assumed the role of Chair three years ago, my vision for the Israel Bonds Women’s Division has always been to think broadly and creatively to appeal to new women rather than viewing expansion through a myopic lens. We must cultivate a new generation of female leaders, and in order to achieve this we must take care and consideration in the notion that we will not hold these positions forever and our successors’ preparedness is vital to the efficacy of their tenure and to the Bonds organization.  During my term as Chair we have initiated a joint Women’s Division/New Leadership group in order to develop and nurture the next generation of women leaders.  We also carefully selected outstanding younger leaders to join us on our past two delegations to Israel so that they can experience first-hand the important role of women as supporters of Israel Bonds and in Israeli society as a whole.

Shira Lewis pictured with Israel Bonds Women’s Division 2017
Israel Delegation participants and Nathalie Mimoun,Honorary Consul of France
in Israel, at the home of Ms. Mimoun

My joy of sharing Israel with others, exploring historic sites and illustrious landscapes together, and bringing them closer to their heritage and to the people of this great land will always be a part of who I am, as a woman and as an enduring advocate of the State of Israel. I always say, nothing sells Israel quite like Israel itself, and it becomes easy for many individuals to solidify their connection when they experience the magnificence and celebrated grandeur of this extraordinary country I am proud to call my second home.      
Shira Lewis is the volunteer Chair of Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds Women’s Division.

Read more and watch a video from Israel Bonds Women’s Division 2017 Israel Delegation here
(Film credit: Shahar Sasson)

Photography by Yossi Zamir 

By James S. Galfund

Israel Maimon, president and CEO of Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds, is returning from an event at which four generations of Bonds supporters were present.  As he marvels over the loyalty Israel Bonds generates, he reflects on the remarkable journey that led him to an organization that, since launching in 1951, has realized over $40 billion in worldwide economic support for Israel.

Israel Maimon (right) with famed investor Warren Buffett
and prominent real estate developer Larry Silverstein at a
June 2017 Israel Bonds dinner in New York. (Photo: Shahar Azran)

Although a Sabra, Maimon explains the road to Bonds did not begin in Israel, but rather in Iraq and Tunisia, birth countries of his parents. 
Maimon, who in October marked his first anniversary as president & CEO, says his mother and father immigrated to Israel in the early ‘50s, arriving “with little to nothing.”  They met at a Tel Aviv bus station (it took his father several tries to summon up the courage to speak to his future bride), married and started a family.  Maimon was the first of three children. 
Protecting Israel’s Northern Border
After graduating high school, Maimon, like most Israeli 18-year-olds, went directly into the Israel Defense Forces.  When asked to give three preferences for his service, Maimon responded, “Golani, Golani, Golani.” He was attracted to the Golani Brigade not only as an elite fighting unit, “but also as a brotherhood.”
Maimon went on “dozens of missions in enemy territory in Lebanon” and moved steadily up the ranks, ascending to company commander.  He taught the Golani’s squad commanders course, “training the next generation of Golani commanders how to lead, prepare attacks and be ready for all kinds of combat - in fields, in tunnels, in villages.”
After four years of active duty, Maimon entered the reserves as a captain, and was subsequently promoted to major, becoming an operations officer in a reserve brigade, planning missions and directing combat operations.
The Path to Government
Post-IDF, Maimon studied law.  He began working at a firm, first as an intern, then as an attorney and finally as a partner.  Among the firm’s biggest clients was the Likud party, setting the stage for the next phase of his career.
Over the next several years, he assisted Likud with legal matters “covering the entire spectrum.  I was up to here in politics,” he says, raising his hand over his head.
He got to know two of Likud’s biggest luminaries, Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu and, in 2002, was tapped to be legal advisor for the Prime Minister’s Office.
It was a post he never filled.  Sharon decided to call new elections, following which he appointed Maimon government secretary instead.
It was a role Maimon calls “among the most influential positions in government, other than prime minister. I had a full picture because so many key issues were channeled through me. This was due to my close relationship with Sharon.”
“The Fateful Calls”
Maimon was tasked with negotiating agreements with parties seeking to join the governing coalition.  He was especially proud of being in a government with Shimon Peres.  “Imagine what it was like,” he says, “to be sitting between two lions of Israel – Peres on my left, Sharon on my right.”
Then-Government Secretary Israel Maimon with “two lions of Israel,"
Ariel Sharon and Shimon Peres (Photo courtesy Israel Maimon)

As government secretary, he was involved in significant decisions, including disengagement from Gaza and four communities in Samaria, which in turn led to Sharon leaving Likud and forming Kadima.
No decision, however, was as critical as the one Maimon had to make the night of January 4, 2006.  Sharon had suffered a massive stroke at his Negev ranch, slipping into a coma from which he would never emerge.
An ambulance raced from the ranch to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital, where Maimon was waiting. “I was the most senior member of Sharon’s team. It fell to me to assess the situation.”
After consulting hospital doctors and Sharon’s personal physician, Maimon knew he faced an unprecedented challenge.  “The world was watching. I couldn’t leave Israel with a leadership vacuum.”
An expert on government and Israel’s Basic Law, Maimon knew “if the prime minister cannot function, the law requires his responsibilities to be transferred to the deputy prime minister.”
And so, he made what he termed “the fateful calls” to Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. “I was devastated. I knew it was the end of an era.”
Facing Tomorrow and Israel Bonds
After Kadima’s subsequent win in national elections, now-Prime Minister Olmert asked Maimon to remain as government secretary.  Eighteen months and 4 ½ years of total service later, Maimon decided “it was time to move on.”
Back in the private sector, he began a seven-year relationship with Shimon Peres, who had recently been elected Israel’s ninth president, on the Facing Tomorrow conference.  It was, says Maimon, “the biggest, most important international conference in Israel.”  Facing Tomorrow was “a celebration of the mind, attracting thousands of participants from all over the world.”
In March 2016, his life took another turn when Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who knew Maimon from his tenure as government secretary, suggested recommending him to the Israel Bonds board for consideration as president & CEO. Kahlon wanted someone, Maimon recalls, “who was not only a doer, but who could proudly represent Israel. I met with him over the following days and said yes.” The board subsequently approved Maimon for the position.

Israel Maimon welcomes Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon
to Washington, DC, for a July 2017 Israel Bonds event
(Photo: Freed Photography)

One year in, Maimon articulates his vision going forward:  “First, I will focus on young people, using all tools at my disposal to establish the next generation of Jewish leadership. Next,” he continues, “I want to increase awareness of Israel Bonds, both domestically and internationally.
 “Finally,” he says, “while Israel bonds represent a good investment, there is another part to the story.  The most important thing is securing the future of the world’s only Jewish state. This will be achieved not only through a powerful army and global alliances, but also through a robust economy supported by the Israel Bonds organization.
“The stronger Israel is,” Israel Maimon states emphatically, “the stronger the Jewish people will be, wherever they may live.” 


Israel Maimon addresses the prestigious Israel Bonds
Prime Minister's Club Dinner, attended by hundreds
of Bonds supporters from three continents
(Photo: Shahar Azran)

By Aaron Howard | JHV •

As he toted boxes of apples from a truck to a refrigerated area inside the Houston Food Bank, Israel Maimon didn’t appear to stand out from the dozen or so Harvey volunteers. But, Maimon’s accented English offered a clue he was not your typical Texan.

Israel Maimon loads boxes of apples
at the Houston Food Bank.

The president and CEO of the Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds, Maimon came from New York Sept. 25-27 to stand in solidarity with Houston. He wasn’t here to solicit for Israel Bonds. He was here to assist Houstonians who have been impacted by the recent flood and to volunteer in delivering emergency supplies to individuals and families in crisis.

“I’ve worked a number of disasters in Israel,” Maimon told the JHV. “But, this is something I’ve never seen in my life. In our drive through Meyerland and Bellaire, we saw empty houses and debris piled high in the streets. We saw personal items, from clothing to photographs, in the ruins. I cannot imagine the frustration, the loss, the dislocation. It makes one realize how we are so small compared to the damage nature can cause.”

Prior to becoming the head of Israel Bonds in 2016, Maimon served in the Israel Defense Forces in the elite Golani Infantry Brigade, attaining the status of company commander and reaching the rank of major. An attorney by profession, Maimon was cabinet secretary for two prime ministers – Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert – and worked closely with one president, Shimon Peres. In the private sector, Maimon was an external director at Cal-Israel Credit Cards, Ltd., and was the founder of Think Content Events, a production company, specializing in creating and producing content for conferences, conventions and events.

Some people think Israel Bonds is a relic of another era, when the Jewish state lacked a great deal of capital. Bonds were considered a sort of contribution to the well-being of the young Jewish state.

Today, the reality is just the opposite, said Maimon. Israel’s economy grew 4 percent in 2016; almost double that of the U.S. and 2.5 percent higher than the Eurozone average.

“Israel’s economy is now in a good position,” he said. “However, nothing can be taken for granted, especially in Israel’s neighborhood. Like any business entity, Israel receives loans when she is strong. But, when you are weak, not all institutions will give you a loan. In times of trouble, we know we can rely on the Diaspora, and that is why we need great relations. For example, in 2008, during the Gaza War, major financial institutions hesitated to loan funds to the state. But, we knew we could count on the sales of Israel Bonds from the Diaspora.

“When we speak with American politicians, they tell us they look at the sale of Israel Bonds as a barometer of support for the State of Israel.”

This year, Israel is seeking to raise $1.1 billion. That’s the target Israeli Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon has asked Israel Bonds to raise in the U.S.

 “The finance minister gives us the target for each year,” said Maimon. “The money goes into the general budget of the state. It is used for foreign currency needs. Bonds are sold in dollars, sterling and Euros.”

Since 1951, more than $40 billion in Israel Bonds have been sold. Israel has a perfect record of payment of interest and principle on the bonds they’ve issued.

Each year, some 70,000 people purchase Israel Bonds, worldwide. More than 300,000 people have purchased Israel Bonds at least once. About 80 percent of the bond purchases are for less than $10,000; in other words, those small shareholders have a vested interest in the State of Israel.

 “We are not project specific,” said Maimon. “You’ll see our fingerprints across many different projects.”

Savvy investors see bonds as a valuable addition to their financial portfolios. Warren Buffett is a big supporter of Israel Bonds. Maimon first met Buffett at a Bond event in Omaha and nine months later in New York.

“Warren believes in the State of Israel and he loves the vehicle of buying bonds to show his support. He sees Israel Bonds as a financially rewarding, solid investment. He personally bought $5 million in (10-year) long-term bonds for his own portfolio. He said he would have bought bonds in perpetuity, if we had them, because Israel will be around forever.”

In addition to moving boxes of apples during his visit to Houston, Maimon met with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Sept. 25.

“I saw the mayor’s leadership: how he stood prior to the storm and how he gathered and coordinated all the efforts. I was impressed and fully appreciate how he handled all aspects of the rescue efforts associated with Hurricane Harvey. You can plan and prepare for disasters and extraordinary events, as we do in Israel. Hurricane Harvey put the mayor and Houston’s leaders to the test. They responded well.

“What impresses me the most is how, weeks after the hurricane, there is such a strong sense of volunteerism among the people of Houston. Texas is a very unique place.”

By Victoria D. Andretta

Israel Bonds High Holy Days appeals have been instrumental in facilitating growth
and development of the nation, in addition to contributing to the unification
of a sovereign people.

At a time of celebration, prayer, renewal and introspection, an Israel bonds investment reinforces one’s connection to the Jewish homeland and its people while enabling a robust nation to sustain economic growth and development for years to come.

With a legacy spanning more than six decades, Israel bonds continue to resonate throughout Jewish communities as a redolent expression of enduring support for the thriving establishment synonymous with the Judaic faith.  Since the first bonds were issued in 1951, the Israel Bonds organization (Development Corporation for Israel) has made a firm commitment to bolster all sectors of Israel’s economy, and without the fervent support of an active Diaspora through bond investment during national congregations’ High Holy Days appeals, Israel would not be recognized as the global technological powerhouse it is today.
Each year more than 400 synagogues across the United States connect bondholders with an Israel bonds appeal.  In addition to bonds’ reputation as being a reliable, dependable resource (Israel has never missed interest or principal payment on Israel bonds), a bond investment is emblematic of bondholders’ connection to their heritage, tradition and cultural ties with Israel.  It is a unifying, personal declaration of support for Israel’s path, purpose and achievements, and as Israel Bonds National Director of Synagogue and Rabbinic Division Martin Pasternak opines, “With every Israel bonds investment, we bring Israel closer to attaining Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s goals of economic stabilization and engagement of a Diaspora Jewry as he proposed the notion of bonds to American philanthropists, Jewish community lay-leaders, executives and Israeli government officials nearly 70 years ago.”  Indeed, the congregational High Holy Days appeal for bonds enriches the Jewish values of generations within the assemblies while providing Israel with funding to sustain revolutionary advancements in all aspects of modern society. 
In addition to Rabbi Pasternak’s perspective on the importance of bonds appeals, Israel Bonds Rabbinic Advisory Council Chairperson, Rabbi Ari Goldstein emphasizes that “Israel bonds are a gesture of a time-honored tradition which connects all Jews to a common faith and is a demonstration of our cultural values and spiritual beliefs.  An investment in Israel bonds during Yamim Noraim offers the abiding individual an opportunity to invest in the Jewish homeland we devotedly support.”
An investment in Israel bonds also functions as a sentimental gift during holidays, meaningful occasions and celebrations or can be utilized as a donation for philanthropic purposes, to schools and institutions as well as for supporting foundations and causes.  Since inception, worldwide sales of Israel bonds have surpassed $40 billion and more than 300,000 individuals have proudly owned an Israel bond as a symbol of pride and coalescence.
Rabbi Eliot H. Pearlson of Temple Menorah in Miami emphasizes the significance of holding appeals for Israel bonds as a means to cement ancestral relationships while contributing to the fortification of Jewish civilization:  “An Israel bond is the embodiment of Jewish culture and is an irrevocable asset to bridging our generations. The purchase of a bond connects us with our traditions while allowing us to harmonize with our fellow congregants and Jews around the world. By purchasing an Israel bond we are united in a shared endeavor, embracing the past with International Jewry while securing the prosperity of our Jewish homeland.”

Similarly, Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg of Beth Tfiloh Congregation in Baltimore notes the impact realized through widespread investment in Israel bonds by affirming, “Regardless of political differences and viewpoints and where one places themselves on the spectrum of Jewish beliefs and practices, what matters is that you believe in our country, and you believe in the future of the State of Israel.”

Temple Menorah and Beth Tfiloh each has conducted High Holy Days appeals for Israel bonds for more than 60 years, and both rabbis continue to witness amassed participation at an increased pace within their respective congregations, especially over the last several years.  Israel Bonds’ president and CEO, Israel Maimon, confirms record levels are being achieved – U.S. sales in 2016 ended at an all-time high of more than $1.127 billion – and attributes such success to a wide range of investors including individuals, corporate and financial institutions, states and municipalities, foundations and universities, as well as Jewish organizations and shuls.  He proclaims, “The vitality of Israel’s economy is predicated on the fundamental support of Jews and all advocates of the Jewish establishment.  Investments in Israel bonds empower our nation to flourish, and the support generated through High Holy Days appeals   provides an indispensable source of revenue which benefits the Jewish people, our future generations and the world at large.”

By James S. Galfund 

On August 14, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed bills allowing the state to invest in Israel bonds and prohibiting state and local governments from contracting with or investing in companies boycotting Israel.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (seated) shakes hands with Israeli
Ambassador Ron Dermer following the signing (Photo: Randall Lee)

In signing the bills, Governor Hutchinson said, “Those are two very strong messages that one, we ought to be open to invest in Israel as need be, and we should not have any restrictions on those investments.”
The legislation was the latest in a series of bills passed by U.S. states and local municipalities allowing investment in Israel bonds. Many, like Arkansas, have also passed anti-BDS legislation. To date, more than 90 state and municipal public employee pension funds and treasury funds have invested a cumulative total of over $3 billion in Israel bonds.

Arkansas State Treasurer Dennis Milligan (left) with 
Ambassador Ron Dermer (Photo: Randall Lee)

Larry Berman, Israel Bonds national managing director of corporate and institutional sales, said over the last 15 years, 10 states have changed their investment policy to permit their investment in Israel bonds.  “As a result of this legislation,” he noted, “Israel has received over $1 billion in new Israel bond investments.” 
There has also been a residual effect.  Purchases by states and other institutions not only  instill pride within the Jewish community, but also provide a feeling of assurance  that when they – individuals, synagogues, JCCs and more – buy  Israel bonds, they are acquiring the same investment as investors with the strictest fiduciary standards.
A New Approach
In September of 1950, when Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion convened a meeting of American Jewish leaders to discuss “a new approach to the scope of cooperation between the Jews of the United States and the people of Israel,” multi-million dollar institutional Israel bond investments would have been considered a fantasy.

Even visionary Israel Bonds founder David Ben-Gurion
could not have predicted multi-million dollar state investments
in Israel bonds (Photo: Israel Bonds)

The “new approach” Ben-Gurion advocated was not to donate, but rather to invest in Israel through the purchase of Israel bonds. Yet, going beyond the Jewish community to secure Israel bond investments seemed implausible. For institutional investors, the idea of acquiring the sovereign debt of a new nation facing economic, environmental and geopolitical adversity was a non-starter.
Yet today, not only has Israel overcome every imaginable challenge, it also has built one of the world’s strongest, most resilient economies. This was highlighted during the global recession, when Israel was among the first developed nations to emerge from the financial crisis.
Investors Take Notice
Investors of every kind are taking notice.  Even the world’s most famous investor, Warren Buffett, upon making a personal $5 million Israel bond purchase, declared, “You can tell prospective investors that I would have taken a perpetual bond if you had offered one.  I believe Israel is going to be around forever.”
U.S. state treasurers, who are entrusted with the highest levels of fiduciary responsibility, have also praised the value of investing in Israel bonds.  New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who has purchased, on behalf of New York State, $260 million in Israel bonds since the beginning of 2007, explained, “We invest on behalf of more than one million working and retired New York public employees, and securing a strong return for our portfolio always comes first. With Israel bonds, we’ve found a real win-win. They provide New York State’s pension fund with a steady return on investment and they benefit an important ally to our nation.”

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel takes a similar view.  Mandel, who has added over $219 million in Israel bonds to Ohio’s portfolio since taking office in 2011, said, after making an historic $61 million Israel bond investment in April, “This purchase was consistent with our strategy of making investments that prioritize . . .  Ohioans’ hard-earned dollars.  Over many treasurer administrations, both Democratic and Republican, state treasurers have invested in Israel bonds, and we are proud to carry on this tradition because it is in the best interests of the taxpayers of Ohio.”

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel (Photo courtesy Ohio State
Treasurer's Office)

The Israel Factor
Beyond the investment aspect of purchasing Israel bonds, there is also the Israel factor.  Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs, who has acquired $25 million in Israel bonds for the state of Illinois - “and we’re not done yet” - cites “the special relationship with the Jewish democracy in the Middle East.”  Frerichs, who has been to Israel twice, most recently in 2016, said he “saw projects such as water and public transportation,” that made him feel good about the fact that “investing in Israel is a great investment.”

Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs (Photo courtesy
Illinois StateTreasurer's office)

New York State Comptroller DiNapoli has visited Israel five times and is “always impressed by Israel’s simultaneous ability to cherish its history and traditions, while nurturing its role as a center for innovation. The vitality and resilience of the Israeli people is remarkable, even to a New Yorker.”

New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli visits Jerusalem's
Western Wall (Photo courtesy New York State Comptroller's office)

Those who have not yet been to the Jewish state feel a sense of anticipation.  Indiana Treasurer Kelly Mitchell, who said she is “grateful for the opportunity to invest in Israel bonds,” is going in January 2018 with the State Financial Officers Foundation, and “very much looks forward to the experience.”


lndiana Treasurer Kelly Mitchell (Photo courtesy Indiana State
Treasurer's office)

“A Powerful Vote of Confidence”
Israel Maimon, president & CEO of Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds, summed it up:  “Who would have imagined, in the days when Israel had a socialist economy and its primary export was the Jaffa orange, that it would one day become a globally-recognized economic powerhouse?
“The many states that have each invested millions of dollars in Israel bonds are offering a strong vote of confidence in Israel, its economy and its future.  They, together with the worldwide Diaspora community, are part of an economic partnership that has generated over $40 billion, helping to build the strong, dynamic Jewish state in which we all take such great pride.”

By James S. Galfund

As he convened the historic September 1950 conference leading to the creation of Israel Bonds, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion told delegates, “You will have an opportunity to see something of what is being done in this country, (which) you will see on the slopes of Jerusalem, in Galilee, on the shores of the Mediterranean, in the vast spaces of the Negev.”

Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion welcomes Israel Bonds
leadership to Jerusalem

Renowned as a visionary, even Ben-Gurion could not have foreseen the sheer scope of Israel’s development in these regions, and Israel Bonds, the organization he founded, played a significant role in making it possible.
Earlier this year, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon congratulated Israel Bonds on exceeding $40 billion in worldwide sales since inception, stating, “Since its founding, Israel Bonds has been a cornerstone of Israel’s economy.  Crossing the $40 billion mark exemplifies the organization’s dedication to Israel, and the way in which its message of economic support has resonated on a global scale. On behalf of the government and people of Israel, I wish to thank Israel Bonds and its worldwide client base for helping to build every sector of our economy.”
Warren Buffett, the world’s most famous investor, has also praised the partnership between the Bonds organization and Israel. In June, participating in his second Israel Bonds event in less than a year, the ‘Oracle of Omaha’ declared investing in Israel bonds represents “a deserved endorsement of a wonderful country.”

Warren Buffett calls Israel bonds "a deserved endorsement
of a remarkable country"  (Photo: Shahar Azran)

Witnessing Israel’s rapid development is an extraordinary experience for Israel Bonds supporters.  Women’s Division Chair Shira Lewis says, “It seems like the world today revolves around Israeli technology and the Israeli concept of making the world a better place. One is hard pressed to go through daily life without being affected by Israel in some way, large or small."
Israel Bonds member Dr. Andy Hutter is also a frequent visitor to Israel: “I have had the privilege of co-chairing five medical delegations on behalf of Israel Bonds.  Seeing how Israeli technology is saving lives and changing the world has been an unforgettable memory for every participant.”
I recently had my own opportunity to visit Israel for a look at three areas in which the country has exceled – water solutions, sustainability and transportation. 
Water Solutions
The National Water Carrier, a frequent stop for Israel Bonds delegations, is arguably Israel’s most iconic undertaking. Begun in the late 1950s, the carrier stretches from the Sea of Galilee to the Negev, and was instrumental in the realization of Ben-Gurion’s determination to “make the desert bloom.”

Members of the Israel Bonds staff delegation pay a visit
to Israel's iconic National Water Carrier, the nation's most
ambitious infrastructure project (Photo: James S. Galfund)

But there was a problem.  As Israel’s population grew, the amount of water needed for drinking rose exponentially.  Increasing amounts of Israel’s scarce water resources had to be diverted from agriculture to the growing requirements of its citizens.
That’s where Israel’s well-established reputation for innovative solutions came into play.  With the Mediterranean Sea as the country’s western border, desalination became an obvious answer. Now, eighty-five percent of Israel‘s drinking water comes from the sea.
Today, Israel’s water supply is no longer dependent on nature. Even in the event of a major drought, Israel still would have sufficient resources to meet the needs of its population.

Vineyards in the desert region of Arava highlight Israel's
successful approach to innovative water solutions
(Photo: James S. Galfund)

Israel is at the forefront of groundbreaking technology and innovative environmental solutions.  An outstanding example of the way in which Israel combines the two is the Shafdan wastewater treatment plant, located five miles south of Tel Aviv. 
Over the course of a year, Shafdan treats 35.6 billion U.S. fluid gallons of wastewater that supply fully 70 percent of the irrigation needs of the Negev and 10 percent of the water needs of the entire country.   

The Shafdan wastewater treatment plant provides 70 percent
of the Negev's irrigation needs and 10 percent of the water
needs of the entire country (Photo: James S. Galfund)

Another example of Israel’s cutting-edge approach to green solutions is Ariel Sharon Park, once a massive landfill that is now a model of sustainability. At one time, the huge landfill contained so much trash that it rose to a height of nearly 200 feet and was dubbed ‘Trash Mountain.’
Today, thousands of Israelis flock to Ariel Sharon Park to enjoy its hiking trails, bike paths, artificial lakes and groves of trees. International representatives from countries including China, Sri Lanka and Mexico have also come to the park seeking advice that will enable them to benefit from yet another example of Israeli ingenuity.

Ariel Sharon Park's tranquil lake, complete with floating
lily pads and a border built from recycled concrete, is a far
cry from the waters of the former 
landfill that were once
referred to as 'garbage juice' (Photo: James S. Galfund)

During an Israel Bonds delegation to Israel, New Leadership Council member Jason Langsner listened intently to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. “I vividly remember Mayor Barkat discussing planning goals associated with construction of the new high speed train connecting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. He predicted that as a direct result of the project, Jerusalem would construct 13 new towers, adding over 10 million square feet of office space in the coming years.”  
The high-speed rail project is indeed a game-changer. After overcoming the kinds of delays inherent in an enterprise of this magnitude, the Capital Express is expected to become fully operational next year. 

ustom-made boring machines carve  tunnels out of formidable
terrain. Every tree, and even the rocks, are carefully moved and
then placed back exactly as before (Photo: James S. Galfund)

When that happens, passengers will race from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on trains reaching speeds of 100 mph. The journey, currently a tedious 1 ½ hours each way, will be whittled down to just 28 minutes. 

The high-speed electric trains will speed along a complex network of bridges and tunnels being hailed as one of the largest infrastructure projects in Israel’s history.

Israel's high-speed trains will race 100 mph along a network
of eight bridges and six tunnels (Photo: James S. Galfund)

“An Extraordinary Success Story”
Seeing Israel’s amazing advances in so many fields always inspires the nation’s supporters.  Israel Bonds Chairman of the Board Richard Hirsch sums it up: “Every time I’ve been to Israel, I’ve never failed to be moved by the scope of development.  The fruition of Ben-Gurion’s vision of a worldwide partnership with the Diaspora through Israel Bonds can be seen throughout the country. Together, every Israel bond investor has played an important part in this extraordinary success story.”