Nava Barak (l-r) and Shimon Peres watch Israel Bonds
president Gideon Patt present award to Sam Halpern
who’s with son David, wife Gladys, and brother Arye.

Dead Sea To Silicon Wadi


OTH Ehud Barak and Shimon Peres said Israel is being transformed into Silicon Valley II. Speaking on videotape at the Israel Bonds 50th anniversary dinner at the New York Hilton, Prime Minister Barak said, “Israel Bonds gave us the means to negotiate peace from a position of strength. Now we have made a decision to make Israel a full partner in the global economy. Israel is becoming a new Silicon Valley.”

Israel Bonds national campaign chairman
Irwin Hochberg presents award to Shimon
Peres as Gideon Patt (left) and Israel Bonds
vice chairman of the board Michael Siegal
(right) stand by.

He reported that investment in Israeli hi-tech firms hit $617 million in the first quarter this year, almost four times as much as the same period last year.

Barak, who cancelled a U.S. visit at the last moment, sent Peres in his place.

“Your husband asked me to keep an eye on you,” Peres told the prime minister’s beautiful wife, Nava, who was seated nearby. “That’s not a bad job.”

Israel is in the eastern
hemisphere of Silicon
Valley. It's hard to get
a first-class seat these
days because of all
the traffic to and from
the U.S. by all these
Internet professionals
from Israel.

Joel Feldschuh
EL AL President

That elicited a hearty chuckle from the assembly of 1200 people including Ron Lauder, District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, New York State comptroller Carl, McCall, New York City comptroller Alan Hevesi, Marlene Post, Irwin Hochberg, Malcolm Hoenlein, Meir Rosen, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein of Cong. Kehilath Jeshurun, Yeshiva University’s Dr. Norman Lamm and survivor/philanthropist Sam Halpern whose 80th birthday toast was the evening’s highlight.

The fact that Israel Bonds reached $22.5 billion in sales since its inception in 1951 prompted Peres to remark, “Fifty years ago we had two lakes, one dead. We were a dry land, a desert, an army with no arms. We didn’t have a penny in our pocket. Only crazy people would come here and invest. Thank you for being crazy.”

Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres
(left) and Israel Bonds president Gideon Patt
(right) greet special guests Sen. Charles Schumer
and New York State comptroller Carl McCall.

That night 1300 guests, all crazy for Israel, shelled out $117 million for Israel Bonds.

Peres added that Israel is quickly becoming global because “there are no more regional economies. You cannot stop pollution at the borders and you cannot stop rain at customs. Information, science and technology don’t wear uniforms and are not confined by frontiers.”

In this new economy, speed is essential, he emphasized. “The faster you are, the richer you become.”

At the same time, the winner of the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize added, the peace process plods on, but is not easy. He recalled sitting with Arafat who remarked, “Democracy – who invented it? It is so tiring.”

“When Yitzhak Rabin had to shake Arafat’s hand on the White House lawn, his body language was revolting.” Peres said. “He turned to me and said, ‘Now it’s your turn.’”

District Attorney Robert Morgenthau
(left) and Israel Bonds president
Gideon Patt

Peres said Israel is prepared to return the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for peace. “But Saddam Hussein also wants our land by the Sea of Galilee,” Peres said. “That he cannot have. We will not make the Sea of Galilee another dead lake.”

“Each year,” Peres continued, “Saddam Hussein buys a ticket to the train. Every time the train arrives, he misses it. We will not miss our train, the train of peace.

“We shall wait for Syria to make peace. Our offer of land for peace will stand.”

Naomi and Michael Mayer
of EL AL Israel Airlines

But Peres is optimistic about the ultimate goal. “Most of my life, I spent trying to buy good guns. Not today, because we have good neighbors. Guns don’t kill – people do.”

And these Arab people, Peres said, is the new generation “that won’t want to follow the follies of their fathers. They want peace, understanding and the new economy.”

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