Questionnaire: Can we talk?

Dialogue and education are the bedrocks of an enlightened Israel, says businessman/social activist Daniel Goldman, who made aliya from Newcastle in 1992. In addition to being cochairman of World Bnei Akiva, Goldman was recently elected as chairman of Gesher, which promotes understanding and tolerance, with a view to creating a better future for the people of Israel.

Daniel Goldman 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Daniel Goldman 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
■ What gets you out of bed in the morning?
The desire to make a difference, both in business and in society. My dad was not worried what profession or job my brother and I chose, only that we should strive to be the best we can be!
■ What keeps you up at night?
Will my kids grow up to be independent, creative and with a Jewish conscience? I have five kids under the age of 10. That’s a lot of futures to worry about! I think that our biggest job in life is to ensure a responsible next generation that grows up to understand their role and find ways to advance our society. This is true at a family level with our kids, but no less so at a society level. This is why I have chosen to be involved in educational work through Gesher and World Bnei Akiva. This allows me to be involved in education for the Jewish People in Israel and the Diaspora.
■ What’s the most difficult professional moment you’ve faced so far? Deciding and then getting rid of a founder CEO of a company. In my professional life I have the privilege of working with entrepreneurs who have created businesses using their own ideas, and with their own hands. It is very hard as an outsider to come and tell them that maybe somebody else could do a better job running the company. Occasionally that’s what we have to do.
■ How do you celebrate your achievements?
Single malt whisky; Bruichladdich is my tipple. The best celebrations are the ones that I can share, either with friends or colleagues. Sadly, when it’s to celebrate my beloved Sunderland winning a football match, there are not many there to enjoy it with me!
■ If you were prime minister, what’s the first thing you would do?
I would make education a priority. Our kids seem to spend the whole time preparing for tests or on the computer. Instead they should spend more time reading, writing and thinking.
This is crucial for our future in two ways. In order to stay competitive in a very aggressive world, we need to produce talented and highly educated professionals. Of no less importance is the knowledge that the next generation understands why we are in Israel and what it means to be part of the greatest Jewish adventure for 2,000 years. The Middle East is no walk in the park, and without knowledge of our history and tradition, we risk not having the stomach to stick around.

■ Which Israeli should have a movie made about him?
There is something so authentic about Stef Wertheimer. He combines decades of hard work and sweat, in an unfashionable part of the country, along with the best of Israeli innovation.
Finally, Stef has an outsized social conscience which financial success has not diminished; this makes him really special.
■ What would you change about Israelis if you could?
Although I have been almost 20 years in Israel, I still have not shrugged off my Englishness (if that’s a word). I would love to share some of the politeness that I grew up with, in shops, banks and on the road. It costs nothing and makes everyone feel so much better.
The other thing that I would change is the constant need for Israelis to express to doctors, teachers and other professionals that they really know better! There is a reason why they have dedicated themselves to years of training in their field. Let’s give them the credit that they learnt something along the way!
■ iPad, BlackBerry or pen and paper?
■ If you had to write an advertisement to entice tourists to come to Israel, what would it say?
Sun to snow, ancient to hi-tech, East to West, Israel has it all!
■ What is the most serious problem facing the country?
We need to agree on a group mojo.
If we cannot agree on a good reason for us all to be here together, then we will continue to be attacked, locally and internationally. Once we find and believe in a set of common denominators, nobody can stop our progress.
■ How can it be solved?
I spend a lot of time with the Gesher team working on this issue.
The barrier to solving this problem is an overly polarized society, Jews and non-Jews, religious and secular, ultra-Orthodox and religious Zionist, olim and vatikim (veteran citizens), rich and poor. The only way to break this barrier is greater and more meaningful communication across these groups. We should use this dialogue to define and redefine our social contract.
Education is the key, and I am inspired all the time by the many involved in this endeavor – including, of course, Gesher.

■ In 20 years, the country will be:
Noisy! Israelis are a passionate bunch. There is no subject that they are not prepared to debate or argue about. So long as we can channel this in a positive direction, Israel will continue to be a creative, passionate and exciting place to live!