Picture this: A high-level businessman on a trip abroad is schmoozing a potential investor in hopes of closing a major deal, when suddenly he is hit with a question about Israeli politics or the morality of the IDF.
For Israeli CEOs, it’s a scenario that’s all too familiar, and one that several of the nation’s highest-ranking business-people were looking for guidance on. Liron Rotem, director of the Ariel Foundation, a private charitable foundation, says she routinely heard from top executives that while they felt unflinching in the boardroom, they were often overwhelmed by questions about their own national loyalties. So she teamed up with StandWithUs, a nonprofit education organization that teaches pro-Israel advocacy seminars, and on Monday evening unveiled a special session designed specifically for Israel’s top executives.
“Leading Israeli professionals struggle when asked about Israel as they travel around the world on business. We’ve identified the need to provide them with answers,” she said.
The practice starts with helping businessmen and -women feel confident enough in their ability to defend Israel that they don’t need to hide their identity, as is often the practice abroad. “Instead of saying London or New York when asked where they come from, we want to encourage honest and informed answers,” she said.
The seminar, which included briefings by Col. (Res). Miri Eisin, a former prime minister’s spokesperson, looked at Israel’s international image and offered the 15 participants a chance to take part in workshops and hands-on training to deal with tough questions about Israel. Members of the group, many of whom asked to remain anonymous, include Eyal Waldman, CEO and president of Mellanox Technologies, a major Ethernet and computer data services company.
One participant, a British immigrant to Israel who works for a major finance company and asked to remain unnamed, said the seminar helped him understand that the rest of the world views Israel differently from him.
“They explained how other peoples’ perspectives are shaped by images they see in the media,” he says. “We think of ourselves as the David but the world sees us as a Goliath. It’s like a flip on the perspective… to get that training, and those facts, is really good.”