Stef Wertheimer 101: A Visionary from Humble Beginnings
Zatrun Published at June 29, 2024

Stef Wertheimer, whose Hebrew name is Ze’ev, is a remarkable figure in the world of industry, investment, and philanthropy. Born on July 16, 1926, in Kippenheim, Germany, to a Jewish family, he embarked on a journey that would eventually lead him to become an Israeli billionaire industrialist, investor, philanthropist, and even a politician. His family’s escape from Nazism brought them to Mandatory Palestine in 1937, where Stef’s extraordinary life began to unfold. delves into the incredible journey of this visionary individual, shedding light on the various aspects of his life.

Stef Wertheimer: Early Years and Education

Stef Wertheimer’s path to success was unconventional, to say the least. Despite studying at the Tel-Nordau School in Tel Aviv, he decided to drop out at the young age of 16. His thirst for knowledge and interest in optics led him to Professor Emanuel Goldberg, a renowned researcher and inventor. Professor Goldberg’s expertise in imaging technology had a profound influence on Stef’s future endeavors.

During World War II, in 1943, Wertheimer joined the British Royal Air Force as an optical equipment technician, where he honed his skills in repairing optical equipment installed in British military aircraft. His dedication and technical proficiency did not go unnoticed.

In 1945, he found himself in the Palmach, serving as a technical officer in the “German Unit,” a special guerilla force prepared to engage in combat operations against the German army if it reached Israel. Subsequently, he joined the Haganah in 1947, where he worked on the development and improvement of cannons. His technical expertise would soon prove invaluable during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, where he served as a technical officer in the Yiftach Brigade.

After the war, Stef briefly worked at Rafael but was dismissed due to his lack of formal education. He and his wife experienced life on kibbutz Yir’on but decided to leave due to ideological differences with the socialist economic model the kibbutz movement embraced.

Stef Wertheimer, a family man, is married and has four children. He resides in Tel Aviv. Notably, his granddaughter is the well-known Israeli actress, Maya Wertheimer. In 2018, his son, Eitan Wertheimer, purchased a house for him, demonstrating the strong bonds within the family.

Trailblazing Business Career

In 1952, Stef Wertheimer embarked on his entrepreneurial journey by establishing a small metal shop and toolmaking company called ISCAR in the backyard of his Nahariya home. This modest venture swiftly evolved into a significant success story, attracting the interest of Discount Investments, who later became minority investors in the company.

Today, ISCAR stands as one of the world’s largest manufacturers of carbide industrial-cutting tools, catering to renowned carmakers like General Motors and Ford. ISCAR’s global reach extends to numerous countries, employing over 5,000 people.

In 1968, following the Six-Day War and the French weapons embargo, Wertheimer founded ISCAR Blades, which eventually transformed into Blades Technology, a major player in the manufacturing of blades and vanes for jet engines and industrial gas turbines. His stake in Blades Technology was sold to jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney in 2014, marking another significant chapter in his illustrious business career.

A game-changing moment occurred in 2006 when Berkshire Hathaway acquired 80% of ISCAR Metalworking Company for $4 billion. This pivotal move was followed by Warren Buffett’s acquisition of the remaining shares in 2013 for $2.05 billion, further cementing ISCAR’s standing in the industry. As of March 2021, Forbes valued Stef Wertheimer at $6.2 billion, ranking him 216th on the Billionaires 2020 list, a testament to his enduring impact on the business world.

Fostering Economic Growth Through Industrial Parks

Stef Wertheimer’s contribution to society extends beyond his business achievements. He is the visionary force behind seven industrial parks located in Israel and neighboring countries. Each of these industrial parks operates on five core principles: exports, education, coexistence, community, and culture. The primary objective is to stimulate economic growth, job creation, and regional stability. Wertheimer’s philosophy underscores the idea that industrial parks can provide employment opportunities and keep people engaged in productive work, ultimately deterring involvement in acts of terrorism.

Among his model parks, the Tefen Industrial Park, established in 1982, exemplifies his comprehensive approach. This park encompasses various facets of life, from transportation to cultural and educational facilities. One of his more recent initiatives, an industrial park in Nazareth, promotes Arab-Jewish collaboration, bringing together communities that work side by side. Pope Benedict even blessed this groundbreaking project during his visit to Israel in 2009.

A Vision for Peace and Prosperity

Stef Wertheimer is a fervent advocate for a “Marshall Plan for the Middle East.” His vision revolves around using industry as a means to provide training, create jobs, alleviate poverty, and elevate the living standards of those in the Middle East. He envisions the establishment of an additional 100 industrial parks that would employ both Israelis and Palestinians, thereby fostering mutual cooperation and stability in the region.

In the 1990s, Wertheimer proposed an industrial park in Rafah, Gaza Strip, with support from both Palestinian and Israeli governments. Sadly, the outbreak of the Second Intifada led to the indefinite postponement of this promising initiative. Undeterred, Wertheimer took his vision beyond Israel and initiated similar projects in Turkey and Jordan. His “Marshall Plan” hinges on aid from Western countries to enhance the Middle East’s strength, ushering in an era of prosperity and peace that replaces terrorism and poverty.

A Remarkable Political Journey

Stef Wertheimer’s impact extends to the realm of politics. In 1977, he played a pivotal role in founding the Democratic Movement for Change, a centrist political party. The party’s success in the 1977 elections saw Wertheimer securing a seat in the Knesset. However, after the party disbanded in 1978, he joined Shinui.

His Knesset tenure included membership in the Economics Committee, where he actively worked to bridge gaps between Jewish and Arab communities in Israel, particularly by boosting Arab participation in the country’s high-tech sector. In recent years, Wertheimer endorsed Tzipi Livni’s alliance with Labor, the Zionist Union, and continued to work towards a harmonious society, making significant contributions to his homeland.

Stef Wertheimer’s profound contribution to society and the State of Israel has earned him numerous accolades and awards. In 1991, he was honored with the Israel Prize, recognizing his extraordinary impact on Israeli society. In 2008, he received the Buber-Rosenzweig-Medal for his continued dedication to fostering cooperation and understanding.

His commitment to ethical business practices was recognized with the Oslo Business for Peace Award in 2010. This prestigious award celebrated his transformative role in bringing about positive change through ethical business conduct. In 2014, he received the President’s Medal in Israel, further solidifying his status as a revered and honored figure in the nation.

Stef Wertheimer’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of dedication, innovation, and a deep commitment to fostering peace, prosperity, and coexistence. From his humble beginnings to his vast industrial empire, his life’s work reflects a profound desire to create a better world for all.

His advocacy for a “Marshall Plan for the Middle East” stands as a beacon of hope, offering a path to peace and stability in a region too often marred by conflict. Stef Wertheimer’s legacy will continue to inspire generations to come, reminding us that the pursuit of economic growth and societal well-being can go hand in hand. has taken an in-depth look at the life and contributions of this extraordinary individual, honoring his dedication to a brighter future.

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