Israeli Philanthropist Stef Wertheimer Is Born in Germany
Stef Wertheimer speaks at the opening of an exhibition at the Open Museum of Photography in Tel Hai in 2011. (credit: Moshe Milner, Israeli Government Press Office, CC BY-SA 3.0)

July 16, 1927

Born in Kippenheim, Germany in 1926, Stef Wertheimer immigrated to Mandate Palestine in 1937 with his family and became one of Israel’s wealthiest citizens with a net worth of $5 billion. A member of the Palmach (Jewish defense organization), he served in the British Royal Air Force in 1943 as an optical technician, thus gaining expertise with tools and machinery.

In 1952, Wertheimer, then a young Israeli businessman, founded a metal tool fabrication company in his garage and named it Iscar Metalworking.  Wertheimer eventually moved its operations to the Western Galilee, and the company’s headquarters are still located there today. Since its inception, the company has gone from a small, single facility-operation in Israel to a multinational corporation with representation in over fifty countries. In 2006, American business mogul Warren Buffet purchased eighty percent of the company’s shares for $4 billion. This was the first time Berkshire Hathaway, Buffet’s powerhouse firm, purchased a company outside of the United States. On May 1, 2013, Buffet purchased the remaining twenty percent of the company’s shares for $2 billion.

A philanthropist and ardent peace-activist, Wertheimer has dedicated more than $100 million of his own money to build industrial parks in the Galilee that provide rent-free work spaces for industrial startups in economically disadvantaged Arab regions in Israel. In 2010, he was honored with the Oslo Business for Peace Award for the projects.