His name was not on the list of honorees cited at the annual Israel Exports Awards ceremony at Beit Hanassi on Monday, but Boaz Hirsch, looking somewhat embarrassed by the unexpected accolades and attention, came in for special mention by Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and was urged by President Shimon Peres to stand up and take a bow.
Hirsch, the ministry’s deputy director-general and chairman of the global diamond industry oversight body, the Kimberley Process, was the driving force behind the unanimous resolution taken last week by the UN General Assembly to strengthen global efforts to curb trade in conflict diamonds.
“You have brought great honor to the State of Israel,” Ben-Eliezer told Hirsch as he recounted the latter’s efforts to get the resolution passed. “Because of Boaz, Israel was able to lead more than 60 countries in co-sponsoring the resolution.”
The Export Prize was awarded to Kibbutz Sasa’s Plasan Sasa Ltd., which develops and manufactures add-on armor systems for military and civilian use. A special award to a multinational company for its contribution to the economy was given to IBM Israel Ltd., which employs 2,200 people, 1,000 of whom are engaged in R&D.
In awarding prizes to outstanding exporters, a panel of adjudicators took into consideration not only the volume of a company’s exports in relation to its total sales, but also technologies used, concern for the environment, provision of jobs in the periphery and involvement in community welfare.
Some of the winning companies pride themselves on employing members of minority communities, new immigrants and people with disabilities.
Outstanding Exporter Awards went to Mellanox Technologies Ltd., Gamatronic Electronic Industries Ltd., Itamar Medical Ltd., Naot Footwear Industries Cooperative, Beth-El Industries Ltd., Carmit Candy Industries Ltd., Chromagen Solar Water Solutions and Sahar Atid Diamonds Ltd.
Ben-Eliezer commented that the diamond industry, once the biggest money earner for Israel, has been hit very hard by the global economic crisis.
“We have to do everything possible to put the diamond industry back in its rightful place,” he said.
Although the companies represented by all those gathered at Beit Hanassi had a combined worth of billions of dollars, Peres advised the industrial community to look at the potential of R&D rather than at stock-market reports.
“If I could, I would also give the president an Outstanding Exporter’s Award,” said Ben-Eliezer, who over the past two years has traveled extensively with Peres and has witnessed the manner in which he promotes trade with Israel. “I’ve never seen anyone promote Israel exports to the extent that he does.”
Taking into account Peres’s penchant for science and technology and his in-depth knowledge of what Israeli researchers are doing, Ben- Eliezer quipped that he could now dispense with the chief scientist.
Both Peres and Ben-Eliezer said despite the economic hardships and challenges of 2010, Israeli exporters could boast remarkable achievements.
Peres said women, Arabs and haredim should be integrated into hi-tech companies so that they, too, could contribute to the economy and Israel’s technological knowledge, thereby improving the quality of their lives and those of their families.
Comparing today’s situation with that of 60 years ago, Peres said it was
hard to believe that in the early years of the state there was such
austerity. Eggs, flour and meat were rationed through food vouchers, he
said, and the only things Israel was able to produce were oranges, false
teeth and the potential for fuel.
Today, Israel sends carrots to Russia, avocados to France, sprinklers to
China and computer chips to the United States, Peres said.