Dov Lautman 370.
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Out in wintry France, I heard the news of the passing of Dov Lautman, and my thoughts went quickly over all the times I had met Dov and what he meant to so many.
On a sultry July evening in 2010, I recalled that Israel Venture Network (IVN), which I’ve been a founder member and long-time director of, held a launch event themed “Reflections on Influence and Impact on Israeli Society” in celebration of its new Social Venture Program, a comprehensive program of mentoring, capacity building and financial support, aimed at developing self-sustaining social ventures (now social enterprises) through the application of income-generating models and business practices. We were honored to have as our keynote speaker the industrialist, philanthropist and Israel Prize laureate Dov Lautman.
That night, Dov spoke passionately about his philanthropic work, especially in the field of education, and about the rapidly growing gaps in Israeli society. He asked everyone to become more involved: “Even if you believe that you have no extra time in your life, you can always find a couple of hours a week to help better Israeli society.” How right he was! I thought it would be meaningful to also add some other perspectives to the huge outpouring of words about this mensch of a man, whose legacy will continue for a long time to come. I will not recount here all his accomplishments, for they have been told by many and are well known by many more, and President Shimon Peres’s deeply moving words at his funeral really cannot be bettered.
I have been going through the grieving process for my dear mother, Elisabeth Maxwell, who passed away a few months ago from old age and the late stages of Parkinson’s disease. As with all illnesses in old people it is a terrible thing to witness the daily diminishment of our beloved parents. But my mother, like Dov, who bore the curse of Lou Gehrig’s disease since 2003 and personal tragedy, also bore her own infirmities and personal tragedies with extreme dignity, courage and forbearance, and both of them continued to deeply care for and be as active as they could be in the pursuit of their passions. In Dov’s case, his last abiding passion was that every child in Israel be educated.
He was a man who really invested in making his surroundings better, constantly. He was a fair man, treating people with utmost respect. I want to give two examples of Dov’s impact and enduring values from an Arab-Israeli perspective. The first is from an intern at Delta Galil Industries, Ltd., Dov’s flagship company; the second from his right-hand man and Arab senior executive at Delta Galil, Imad Telhami. Telhami said of Dov, ”He accepted me for who I am at a time when the challenges were great; he believed in me; he was there for me and cherished my success.”
Forsan Hussein, the dynamic trilingual first Palestinian- Israeli CEO of the Jerusalem YMCA, was an intern at Delta Galil when he worked directly with Telhami.
Though Forsan’s personal encounters with Dov were brief, he speaks so highly of him as a visionary, believing in doing well while doing good, and connecting the Middle East economically, which was his contribution to peace regionally. As Forsan said, “He really enjoyed seeing different people of various backgrounds unite under the banner of Delta Galil.”
I can personally say, as anyone who meets and observes or deals with Forsan, that he imbues the values and practical applications of Dov’s own great humanity and deep beliefs in coexistence and “walking the walk.”
When Babcom chairman Imad Telhami founded the company in late 2008, its shareholders included Dov Lautman and his son, Noam. Telhami and Lautman first met in a completely different industry, textiles, at Delta Galil. Telhami worked at Delta Galil for 25 years, serving in a range of senior positions, including as Lautman’s right-hand man. He was really professionally adopted by Dov. Imad’s words that he wrote to himself about Dov’s passing moved me very much and are worth repeating here: “This is a moment i have dreaded for a long time: losing a mentor, a father figure, a best friend...Of course, he was a mentor of the first order, but he was much more, which is why he is loved by so many. His humanity and deep care for people transcended race, color and religion. He embraced, he loved, he empowered...
He helped instill in me the same values that I hold dear...But there is a secret ingredient that I learned from Dov that is a key to success: It is okay to seek business success and profit. In fact, it is a necessary part of any business model; but it is equally essential to combine that business drive with a passionate social agenda – to do good in the world.”
Dovik Lautman was a rare gem of a man – an industrialist, philanthropist, national activist, mentor, friend and great human being – and his example should be felt far beyond the country he loved and the region where he strove so hard to bring peace.The author is a technology pioneer of the World Economic Forum and deeply involved in Israel in hi-tech, philanthropy and leading peace organizations since 1999.