Israeli billionaire Stef Wertheimer, founder of the Warren Buffett-owned Iscar Metalworking Cos., opened an industrial park in Nazareth today that intends to provide manufacturing jobs for local Arab residents.
The park’s aim “is to use the skills of the people of Nazareth and surrounding area,” to create export-oriented products, Wertheimer said.
Unemployment and poverty rates for Israeli Arabs, who comprise about 20 percent of the country’s population, are higher than for the Jewish majority. The percentage of Arabs who participate in the Israeli labor market is about 41 percent compared with 60 percent of Jewish citizens, according to a 2011 report by the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem research center. Slightly more than half of Israeli Arabs live below the official poverty line, according to the National Insurance Institute.
Wertheimer, whose machine-cutting tools company Iscar was bought by Buffett’s Berkshire-Hathaway Inc. for $4 billion in 2006, operates five other industrial parks in Israel’s outlying Galilee and Negev regions that have attracted export-focused manufacturers. He also established an industrial park that opened in Gebze, Turkey in 2003.
The Nazareth park is planned to ultimately house about 25 companies and provide about 1,000 jobs. Some firms have already set up there, including customer-services software provider Amdocs Ltd. and Alpha Omega Ltd., an Israeli Arab-owned maker of precision medical instruments.