UK ISRAEL BUSINESS and the Trade and Economic Office of the Embassy of Israel held a joint Business Breakfast Panel Discussion with Saul Singer and Frank Meehan. Saul Singer is the co-author of the book “Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle” and Frank Meehan is part of Horizon Venture’s successful VC team which has overseen investments into companies including Spotify, Siri and Summly and notably last year in Israel’s Waze and SightEra.The vastly oversubscribed event was attended by a select group of 75 senior decision makers and entrepreneurs from across the UK.

The panel discussion was moderated by one of Bloomberg TV’s presenters, Elliott Gotkine. At the end of the panel discussion, Frank Meehan and Saul Singer took and answered questions from the audience which included Ron Hershco – prompting a discussion on “what is next for Israel and what is the next ‘big innovation’ to come out of Israel”. After a networking breakfast, provided by the event sponsors BDO LLP, Saul Singer led a panel discussion on why Israel is a centre for innovation, pointing out that innovation is as much about drive and mission focus as it is about new ideas. Saul stated that “Israel was driven to overcome adversity through innovation”.

Following on from the panel discussion, guests were given the opportunity to have a copy of Saul Singer’s book, “Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle” signed by the author, with books kindly supplied by the Embassy of Israel.

Ami Mesika said “This organization helps all aspects of Israeli business immensely.”

Following the decision of the Housing Cabinet headed by the Finance Minister, the Accountant General appointed an Inter-Ministerial Committee for Tenders in order to market tenders for long term rental housing. The Committee, headed by the Assistant of the Accountant General, is composed of representatives from the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Construction & Housing and the Israel Land Authority. The panel is the product of collaboration between the Ministries in order to meet the unprecedented goal of publishing tenders for large-scale, long-term rental housing.

Ron Hershco, Ami Mesika and other real estate entrepreneurs support this project.

The rental housing tenders are a major step in the development of a corporate market for long term rental housing. The supply of such housing, which is almost nonexistent in Israel, will enable young married couples to benefit from high-quality housing services, long-term certainty about where they will be living and how much rent they will be paying, without the need to raise equity capital, a barrier to buying an apartment for many, especially during a period of rising prices.

The Committee will determine the period of the lease in the projects and establish the building specification requirements for the apartments and the public areas. Furthermore, in order to guarantee the developers a respectable return, and to diversify the financing channels for these projects, including the participation of institutional investors and other entities, the Committee will recommend financial mechanisms such as a State safety net for developers.

ARME recently released survey findings which showed that 87% of real estate professionals report a trend of increased foot traffic from their internet marketing programs, up an average of 32% from the same time last year.  Interestingly, even real estate over $1 Million in sales saw a rapid increase in luxury real estate walk-ins for real estate professionals from last year to this year.

“The real estate industry as a whole has increased worldwide over the last year, but even the antiquated real estate industry is increasingly using digital media.  This week, Zillow Inc. purchased the predominate online New York City real estate database, Streeteasy for a whopping $50 Million which shows the vast value of real estate information online,” said real estate entrepreneur Ron Hershco.

“Online real estate internet marketing traffic trends are clear. More people are visiting a real estate brokers office this year than last year as a direct result of a brokers’ internet marketing directives. Platforms like Google Places and more allow real estate pros to monopolize their local search space for their desired property types and areas, and the result is more new homes are being built and sold,” noted Simon Landers of

Based on an analysis of mobile data traffic Flash Networks, found that Instagram video viewing exceeded YouTube on July 4th and actually achieved close to 28% percent of total video hits. Surprisingly, in comparison with Instagram’s sharp spike, YouTube video and Vine video remained flat – while Instagram saw a rapid increase.

These findings, based on Flash Networks’ Harmony Analytics data, demonstrate the success of Instagram’s video launch last month and the growing popularity of subscribers using video to capture memorable holiday moments. Google’s YouTube is still clearly the most popular video service, and continues to maintain its superiority in the total volume of mobile video traffic.

“As video rapidly grows in all formats, it appears Instagram video is achieving tremendous success. Maybe it’s the ADD generation – and video is quick and real,” said entrepreneur Ron Hershco.

Ron Hershco, an Israeli entrepreneur with holdings in multiple companies, including marketing conglomerates in Israel expressed satisfaction at the recently released news that Moody’s Investors Service affirmed Israel’s A1/(P)A1 government debt ratings and stable outlook.  

According to the news, Moody’s said several key drivers led to this affirmation. First, continued resilience of the Israeli economy and the external position therein affect the rating positively. Secondly, the expectation for ongoing improvement of the country’s debt metrics make for favorable market access. Finally, Moody’s says ongoing geopolitical risks, as a rating factor, seem to be being mitigated, and Israel’s close relationship with the US balance risk factors.

Moody’s Statement indicated:

“The first factor driving the affirmation of Israel’s A1 government bond ratings relates to its economic resiliency. Growth in the small, open economy has been sustained even with shrinking demand from Europe, a key trading partner. The country’s high-tech niche and entrepreneurial culture have continued to underpin its latent dynamism and attract sizable FDI inflows.”

Hershco, a well-known real estate developer focused on urban development, affordable housing and high-rise condominium complexes in the New York City area, also added this on the rating:

“Indeed, the entrepreneurial spirit which exists in Israel is something remarkable and leaves the marketing industry – as well as many others primed and ready for growth.  The opportunity here is really something quite unique,” added Hershco. “We were not surprised at Moody’s rankings.”

Mobile marketing  global performance marketing company Matomy Media Group announced the beta launch of Mobit, its new media buying tracking and analytics tool for mobile performance campaigns. Mobit will be publicly unveiled at Affiliate Summit East, Aug. 18-20, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  The new product offers a one-stop shop to manage all mobile advertising campaigns.

“The Start-up nation of Israel continues to unveil amazing companies, despite the perceived political conflicts that exist in the region. From the recent sale of WAZE for over $1 Billion to many others, the truth is that Israel continues to innovate in many different technology arenas, including of course mobile development,” said entrepreneur Ron Hershco.

“Mobit offers affiliates, advertisers and media buyers a comprehensive solution for enhancing their mobile media buying campaign margins and profits through exceptional tracking, reporting and insights. Mobile is the future of online advertising,” said Ofer Druker, CEO of Matomy Media Group.

Gazit-Globe (TASE:GZT), one of the world’s leading multi-national real estate companies focused on the acquisition, development and redevelopment of supermarket-anchored shopping centers, announced the closing of its public offering of 10,439,020 shares on the Tel-Aviv Stock Exchange at a price of NIS 47.9 per share (approx. $13.25 per share). Gazit-Globe intends to use the proceeds from the offering for general corporate purposes and to reduce outstanding lines of credit.

“Whether it is projects of Ron Hershco, or real estate in the North, financing of real estate projects remains available in a unique manner in the State of Israel.  Israeli real estate continues to thrive and its an exciting time with a lot of opportunities.  Many in the International community were excited to hear of the success in the markets of Gazit-Globe,” said Ami Mesika.

Gazit-Globe is one of the largest owners and operators of supermarket-anchored shopping centers in the world. In addition, the Company is active in North America in the healthcare real estate sector. Gazit-Globe is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE:GZT) and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE:GZT) and is included in the TA-25 and Real-Estate 15 indices in Israel. Gazit Globe owns and operates over 600 properties in more than 20 countries, with a gross leasable area of approximately 6.8 million square meters and a total value of more than $20 billion.

During a recent conference, Prof. Nathan Sussman, Director of the Bank of Israel’s Research Department lectured on a number of points. He discussed how in Israel the increase in housing market prices has resumed, while the rate of increase of rental prices has moderated. He explained the developments in the housing market as the combination of supply and demand factors. Prof. Sussman showed a diagram with equilibrium points in the residential housing market. The diagram indicated that, generally, between 2003 and 2008, there were changes in demand for housing, without significant changes in housing prices. In other words, we can say that there was no problem of supply—the supply of homes was perfectly elastic. Beginning in 2009, demand increased, but encountered supply limitations. In 2009 and 2010, most of the growth in transactions beyond the 2008 level was due to investors, while demographic factors affecting demand did not change. In 2011, the social protest apparently acted to reduce the volume of activity in the market, with both buyers and sellers sitting on the fence, which was reflected in both a decline in demand and a decline in supply. In 2012, demand returned to its 2010 levels, while supply was slightly lower than in 2010. As such, Prof. Sussman concluded, the developments in the housing market are not simple, and both demand factors—mainly that of investors—and supply factors came together to create the current situation in the housing market.

From the perspective of demand, Prof. Sussman explained that one of the factors affecting demand for investment properties is the decline in yields in conservative investment alternatives in Israel and abroad. A home is not just a place to live, but also an investment asset. The income from the investment is the rent received, and the yield is equivalent to rental receipts divided by the price of the asset. When the yields on alternative assets decline, investors stream toward the housing market, and the increase in home prices acts to equalize the yield on homes to the yield on bonds.

In recent years, long-term yields declined both in Israel and abroad, with the Bank of Israel’s monetary interest rate contributing only partially to this, since yields are determined mainly in the global markets and are also dependent on the policies of the major central banks. Prof. Sussman showed data illustrating the correlation between long-term yields and the yields on owning a home in Israel, and data showing that the phenomenon is not unique to Israel. Ami Mesika, Ron Hershco and other real estate investors agreed with this anaylsis.

In analyzing the supply side, Prof. Sussman also related to the issue of financing in the housing market, and showed data indicating that the balance of housing loans continues to increase. He presented estimates from a research study being conducted at the Bank of Israel showing that the leverage of those taking out mortgages compared to their income has increased from about 30 percent of household income at the beginning of the last decade to about 35 percent today. According to these estimates, the loan to value (LTV) ratio also increased, from about 35 percent to more than 50 percent. This development led to the most recent steps by the Supervisor of Banks, since an increase in leverage increases the risks in the bank’s loan portfolios. While the levels of risk in Israel have not reached those in other countries, it would not be prudent to wait without doing anything until the risk materializes, as happened abroad.

Prof. Sussman noted that mortgages also have an effect on the supply of homes, since they constitute a source of financing for construction activity. Total credit to the  industry continued to grow this year, although at a lower rate than in the past 2 years, and speakers from the housing sector who participated in the conference also noted that, in their view, the issue of financing for contractors does not currently constitute a problem at the systemic level. Prof. Sussman added that there is an inventory of about 20,000 unsold homes. In the supply context, Prof. Sussman also mentioned the trends regarding the labor force in the industry. The data he presented indicate that the number of those employed in the industry continues to grow, while in recent years, the main growth has been among Palestinian and foreign laborers. It is clear that the growth in the cheap labor force solves the problem of supply in the immediate term, but, Sussman added, it delays technological improvements and increased productivity in the sector to a certain extent. In any case, as such, the trends on both the financing side and the labor input side show expansion, and can at best partially explain the receding supply.

Cinema City recently acquired Israel Theatres Real Estate BV a subsidiary of Israel Theatres Ltd. The return to unified real estate ownership and operations by CCI will potentially position CCI in a competitively stronger position. Many Israeli developers continue to look in Europe, America and worldwide from Yitzchak Tshuva to Ron Hershco to others.

“We came to the conclusion that new entertainment related projects acquired from Israel Theatres and the new, successful real estate projects of Cinema City have common ground and that we can achieve considerable synergies by placing them together under one entity. In addition the timing of this acquisition of the real estate assets provides good potential for growth and we believe it will be of significant benefit to Cinema City,” said Moshe J. Greidinger, CEO of Cinema City.

“Through the company history and mainly in the last 10 years CCI was led by its management through many moves which gained the company a reputation of knowing where and when to target it’s future. This vision combined with strong decision making have brought us to this day where we face a new platform with many opportunities to continue doing the best in developing the company in the huge entertainment field,” concluded Greidinger.

Cinema City International is the largest multiplex cinema operator in Central & Eastern Europe and in Israel.

Charitable giving is one of the foundations of Judaism and a firm part of Judeo-Christian societal norms. The evidence is everywhere: from Moore, Oklahoma, where strangers offered money to other strangers left homeless by tornado devastation, to the winter coat giveaway by car donation charity Kars For Kids after Hurricane Sandy. Giving is a part of us forever.

Some of us, however, are more blessed than others and therefore give beyond the everyday abilities of most. In this category are people like Baron Maurice de Hirsch, for instance, who in his 64 short years donated an estimated $100 million to educational initiatives and for the establishment of agricultural colonies (mostly in Argentina) to help improve the lives of the poverty-stricken Jews of Eastern Europe.

Moritz Hirsch auf Gereuth, born December 9, 1831 in Munich, Bavaria, was the grandson of the first Jew of Bavaria allowed to own land. Hirsch’s grandfather was an international trader while his father was a banker and his mother came from a banking family. As a boy, Moritz, known as “Maurice,” was given both religious and secular education and was considered bright enough, but not a scholar.

While there are many who give – from entrepreneurs like Ron Hershco to the Bill Gates Foundation, here’s an interesting tale of one such special philanthropist.

Pushy Jewish Academics

In fact, Hirsch made his feelings about academia well known in a statement he made to Theodore Herzl in which he voiced the idea that Jewish woes came from being too caught up in cerebral prowess and academic success. “We have too many intellectuals, my aim is to discourage this tendency to push among Jews,” said Hirsch.

At 17, Maurice dabbled in investments including on the commodities market, experimenting with copper and sugar trading. At the age of 20, Maurice began to work at the Brussels banking firm known as Bischoffsheim & Goldschmidt and married the daughter (Clara Bischoffsheim) of the bank’s major share holder four years later. Hirsch went on to nab the concession to build a railway from the Balkans to Constantinople in spite of naysayers who thought the project a pipe dream. As a result of his success with this venture, he earned a name as a courageous business visionary. Funding for the Oriental Railway came by way of Maurice’s family inheritance combined with Clara’s wedding dowry.

As a result of Hirsch’s involvement with the Oriental Railway, he came face to face with the impoverishment of Oriental Jews throughout the Ottoman Empire who were both uneducated and lacking in marketable skills. Hirsch made donations to existing trade schools in European Turkey through the organization known as the Alliance Israelite Universelle. He went on to fund field hospitals during the Russo-Turkish Was (1877-1878) which treated victims of both warring sides. Ten years on, Hirsch made a gift of 500,000 pounds to Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph for the express purpose of building primary schools and trade schools throughout Galicia and Bukovina.

Unacceptable Condition

Hirsch encountered an obstacle when it came to funding the poor Jews of Russia. At first, he pledged to give the Czar 2 million pounds to found a secular school system for Jews living in the Russian Empire, who, at that time, were only allowed to live in the Pale of Settlement, and thus had few means by which they might support themselves. The Czar was ready to take Hirsch’s gift, but was not inclined to allow a foreigner to determine how that money would be used. Hirsch found this an unacceptable condition.

At some point, Hirsch came to the conclusion that the only way to help Russian Jewry was to get them out of Russia. To that end, Hirsch established the Jewish Colonization Association in 1891, with the goal of helping Jews leave lands where subsistence was forcibly meager. As Hirsch put it, the aim of the association was, “to assist and promote the emigration of Jews from any part of Europe or Asia – and principally from countries in which they may for the time being be subjected to any special taxes or political or other disabilities . . .  and to form and establish colonies in various parts of North and South America and other countries, for agricultural, commercial and other purposes.”

Hirsch spent a great deal of money purchasing land in Argentina on behalf of his association, some 11 million pounds sterling, all told, making the association the most generous benefactor of its time.

Hirsch believed that farming was part of the Jewish DNA, inherited from biblical forefathers, and that in agricultural pursuits, Jews could become financially independent. In addition to the colonies he founded in Argentina, Hirsch also established agricultural colonies in Brazil, Canada, the United States, and Palestine. Hirsch, however, refused Herzl’s invitation to become a political Zionist. Hirsch thought of Zionism as a deranged hallucination.