Dov Lautman, successful Israeli entrepreneur and social activist, dies at 77

Netanyahu praises Lautman's contributions to industry, education in Israel; Peres mourns the loss of a personal friend and partner in ideas.

November 23, 2013 16:14
2 minute read.
Dov Lautman

Dov Lautman 370. (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)

Dov Lautman, considered one of the titans of Israeli entrepreneurship, died on Saturday. He was 77.

A native of Tel Aviv, Lautman earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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After he returned to Israel, he was appointed CEO of the Kiryat Shmona-based Sabrina textile company at the age of 27.

In the mid-1970s, he founded Delta, an underwear company, which was headquartered in Karmiel. The company soon expanded overseas and became a huge success story.

In 1986, Lautman was named the head of the Manufacturers Association of Israel. During the Yitzhak Rabin administration, Lautman was tapped to serve as a special envoy for economic development and foreign investment.

In 2007, he was awarded the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement. In his later years, he devoted his time to social endeavors and advocacy for Jewish-Arab co-existence.

In 2003, he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease.

Upon hearing the news of his death, Israel's political establishment sent out statements of mourning and praised Lautman's contributions to Israel.

“Lautman was among those who laid the foundations of modern Israeli industry and the pioneers of moving to the track of advanced technology and export,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, praising Lautman for advancing education as a national priority.

President Shimon Peres, who considered Lautman a good friend, praised his generosity and devotion to service. “It is with deep sorrow that I part from Dovik,” he said using an endearing nicknamed for Dov. “We had a deep and natural friendship and a partnership of ideas and vision. The state of Israel in its entirety knew to cherish him in life, and now let us all remember Dovik Lautman with deep respect for his enormous contribution and glorious legacy.”

In a Facebook post, Finance Minister Yair Lapid called Lautman an outstanding example of those who act and not simply talk, telling that he and Education Minister Shai Piron (who referred to Lautman as “Grandpa Dov”) would pay him visits to discuss the importance of education to the country. “Education is society and economy, education is the only way to build a proper, humane society. That was his will and we will maintain it,” he said.

Outgoing Opposition Leader Shelly Yacimovich praised Lautman, saying his factories provided thousands of jobs and that he always had an eye toward improving society and making it more just. “During the many conversation I had with him, even recently, he was always imbued with a sense of mission that inspired a sense of amazement and wonder,” she said.

Bank of Israel Governor Karnit Flug expressed sorrow at Lautman’s passing, saying that the two passions he fused--industry and education--are the “basis of Israeli society that are the engines of its growth. His image will be sorely missed in the Israeli landscape.”

Lautman's funeral was set to take place at 2:30 p.m. at Tel Aviv's Kiryat Shaul Cemetery.

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