Veterans: Can’t stay away

Born to Israeli parents but raised in the US, Ron Sacher’s life has been a back and forth between the two countries. Ultimately, he stayed here.

Ron Sacher. (photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
Ron Sacher.
(photo credit: GLORIA DEUTSCH)
Ron Sacher, 49.St. Louis to Herzliya Pituah, 1986
Ron Sacher was born in the United States and grew up in St. Louis, but always had an emotional attachment to Israel. His parents had left Israel before he was born, and he would often visit family here, spoke Hebrew and felt that if he had something important to contribute to society, he would rather do it in Israel than anywhere else in the world.
And contribute he has. He sold his first start-up to an American company for one of those mythological sums that most ordinary people can only dream of.
And today he is the CEO of Premia Spine, an up-andcoming medical company which markets an implant considered revolutionary in the orthopedic world.
He lives in Herzliya Pituah with his wife Ofra, also an Israeli who grew up abroad, but does a large amount of traveling for his business. When we met, he had just returned from a trip to the US, where he covered six cities in five days.
He first came to Israel in 1986 when he was 22 and worked for the then-dean of Tel Aviv University, Haim Ben-Shahar, and then for a short time in a small consulting business.
“We worked on a number of projects for the Kibbutz Movement and for foreign industrialists who were looking for investments in Israel,” he says. “All the projects involved determining the attractiveness of business opportunities in Israel.”
He was drafted into the army and served in Golani.
“I knew I was going back to the States but I think my army experience solidified the strong feeling that I would come back to Israel one day,” he says. “On an emotional level, I really wanted to be here but I wasn’t sure if I would find work.”
After his army service, Ben-Shahar set Sacher up in a think tank at the university where they tried to analyze what economic benefits would result from peace between Israel and Jordan.
“That was in the spring of 1989, during the height of the first intifada,” he says. “At the time it was such a far-fetched idea, but I enjoyed the project. It was exciting to think of the opportunities for cooperation if only there were peace between our two countries. Five years later, the historic peace agreement between prime minister [Menachem] Begin and King Hussein was signed.”
After he had completed his studies which included an MBA at Harvard Business School and a master’s in public administration at its Kennedy School of Government, he returned to Israel in 1994 and worked for various companies in telecommunications and later in medical devices in the cardiovascular field.
His present company, Premia Spine, is something he is very enthusiastic about.
“Most people get back pain at some time in their lives,” he says. “You can get through it in different ways – through use of painkillers and, very occasionally, surgery for the more severe cases of spinal stenosis.”
With Premia Spine, the patient is offered an alternative to traditional fusion surgeries with the use of an implant to replace the diseased part of the spine.
“It’s made of a unique material that has the mechanical properties of cartilage,” explains Sacher. The device is called “Tops” and it is fixed to the spine with screws.
“The great thing about Tops is that it has a central polyurethane unit that moves, recreating motion in all directions.”
For people who suffer from spondylolisthesis – more commonly known as slipped disc, and lumbar spinal stenosis, associated with aging, the implant can be a huge blessing.
“It’s a little bit like hip and knee replacement surgery, which is now so common,” says Sacher. “Instead of immobilizing the patient, we replace the diseased segment with an artificial joint. Doctors who use it see their patients get better quicker and have far more mobility, being able to bend, flex and side bend.”
So far the implant is in use at several hospitals in Israel but Sacher would like to see it more generally accepted everywhere.
With such a hectic schedule, musical evenings he holds in his home in Herzliya Pituah provide a much-needed respite. His wife is a professional cellist and was once a member of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Nowadays, she teaches the instrument and plays in a trio on a regular basis.
Every so often Ron and Ofra invite musicians to perform at small chamber concerts in their beautiful home. Friends and neighbors pay a small fee to cover the costs and Ron is responsible for the buffet which is greatly appreciated by the people attending.
If their three daughters are around they also help out.
The two younger ones attend school in America but their older daughter is currently in Ethiopia as a volunteer working with blind children. After her army service she back-packed in South America with friends and will soon return to begin university studies.
In his work, Sacher travels the world but is always happy to return to his home in Israel.
“I very much love the feeling of being part of this country,” he says.