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Monday, 17 October 2011

The enterprising path to peace?

Stef Wertheimer

Next month I am going on pilgrimage to the Holy Land to visit the sites associated with the life and ministry of Jesus. What though of contemporary sites of hope and vision for peace in the places that I will visit?


This week-end, thinking about this, I realised that I did know of one. When studying with David Cooperrider, co-originator of Appreciative Inquiry, he was explaining to us the concept of 'appreciative intelligence', the ability to see 'the mighty oak in the acorn'.  To illustrate this he told us the story of Stef Wertheimer.

David had been giving a lecture at the Arison School of Management in Israel. He raised questions of where peace was to come from. From the military? From governments? From religious leaders? All he felt were unlikely. He argued that the world of business could be 'the most important ground and force for peace'. Though at that point he said hadn't any examples to back up his thesis!

After the lecture, David was approached by a businessman, Stef Wertheimer, who invited him to go the next day to see this thesis in action. 

On a once barren hilltop, Wertheimer has created the Tefen industrial park surrounded by beautiful homes and neighbourhoods. As well making money, attention is paid to the social, educational and cultural life of the community that lives there. Wertheimer describes it as a 'capitalist kibbutz'. David told us:  'The whole park is based on the principle of co-existence, Arab and Jewish living together, going into business together, building schools and museums together, and dramatically transforming entrenched conflicts into collaborative energies for economic empowerment, development and peace'. 


Three more industrial parks have been set up in Israel and work is well underway to develop these parks in Turkey and Jordan as well. The Palestinian Authority are positively disposed though plans to develop sites there have had to be put on hold for the moment. The fuller story is told in 'The Tefen Model Book' and can be found at: 
http://www.omuseums.org.il/data//The_Tefen_Model_Book.pdf



In the book Stef Wertheimer gives his thinking behind the inspiration: 'Our survival in this region depends, ultimately, on the resolution of current conflicts. Alongside the security issues there must, however, be a road map for economic development, for industrialization, for job creation and for export production. Only by increasing the income levels of all countries in the region, will we begin to reduce the immense friction of disparities between neighboring countries and between the Middle East and the developed nations. While the Middle East produces 60% of the world's oil, it manufactures just 2% of the world's goods. With high levels of unemployment in the Arab countries and a rapidly increasing young population, there is a desperate need to generate meaningful employment opportunities and the hope for a better future.

For me, the term “Middle East” has no real meaning. Rather, I see two areas separated by their ownership of oil resources, whereby those of us without oil are the eastern Mediterranean countries that formed the old “Levant”. Among the “non-oil” countries are those that would choose to compete on world markets and seek economic independence such as Jordan, Turkey, Israel and, potentially, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority. Successful advancement along this path can lead the countries of our region towards the creation of a thriving economy, towards a work ethic based on reason and responsibility and towards the achievement of peaceful coexistence between like-minded neighbors.

Recent history in other regions of the world has shown that the deep-rooted conflicts of the past can be overcome by investing in the creation of a prosperous future. We can learn much from the success stories of European integration through the development of joint economic interests and of the achievement of economic prosperity through the development of export markets in countries such as Singapore, Ireland and South Korea. These models must be copied by those of us who choose economic and social freedom and peace - those who embrace the goal of being part of the European economy and of the free world.'


Perhaps the Tefen Model, as well as a vital path to peace, has something else to show us


The growing wave of protest about the austerity we are all having to embrace because of the misdeeds of financiers, signals a growing desire for more responsible ways to create wealth. Does the Tefen Model of collaborative enterprise, where profit is created and some of it invested in the  development of quality, healthy communities, show us a more humane version of wealth creation?


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