Teaching Gaza to Fish

Published: October 15th 2010
in Economics » World

Fishing in Israel
Pic: Wikipedia

A recent study funded by Israeli billionaire entrepreneur and industrialist Stef Wertheimer found that societies with a GDP over $6,600 per capita do not normally harbor terrorists. Five Israeli graduate students also believe that an entrepreneurial business can lead to a more peaceful world.


To that end, they propose to launch an industrial park in the Gaza Strip. The park that they envision will house an on-land aquaculture or fish farming project, designed to provide a healthy protein supply for Palestinians living in Gaza, relieve economic stress in the Palestinian community, and connect the region to foreign business investment and trade.


The students, a nationally diverse group from Tel Aviv University (TAU), strongly believe that by addressing poverty and the lack of opportunity that leads to terrorism, they will be cutting it off at the source.


There's already international interest. In April, the students' project, which they have dubbed Nets of Peace, reached the finals in New York at the United Nations' "Spirit Initiative", a business case competition for actionable solutions to long-standing international conflicts.


It was also featured at TEDxTelAviv, a new conference held in Tel Aviv, modeled on the widely respected TEDx conference in Long Beach, California. TED (an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a private American non-profit foundation dedicated to "ideas worth spreading."


Two of the project's creators are members of the inaugural class of TAU's Sofaer International MBA Program, a curriculum designed to nurture future executives and entrepreneurs who can work knowledgeably and creatively across international borders. Two other team members are graduate students in conflict resolution, and the fifth is earning a Hebrew MBA. The group consists of Israeli, Turkish, Irish and American students.


Fishing for peace


As one of the largest seafood producers in the Middle East, Israel's innovative fish-farming industry is booming. Just a few miles down shore in Gaza, however, where unemployment is said to be as high as 45 percent, fishermen can barely eke out a living.


Still, the fish farming potential in Gaza is significant. The local demand for seafood is high but much of it is currently imported. And the extent of the opportunities for fish farming is not only substantial, the students report, but also increasing rapidly.


As a stepping-stone to a fully developed industrial zone, the students are convinced that the Nets of Peace start-up has the potential to attract investment, create employment, increase prosperity, lead toward economic growth and strengthen the link between Palestinians and the rest of the Mediterranean business community. They are also hopeful that it may increase the possibilities for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. 


In the first phase, they envision a number of fish farms, each one providing 200 to 350 jobs, in addition to other temporary work opportunities for construction and installation teams. Technical and professional training and workshops in marketing and sales are also part of the plan.


"Conflict is rooted in these two nations," one of the students, Israeli Osher Perry, tells ISRAEL21c. "We need to change the atmosphere of mistrust and frustration. As business students, we are saying let's bring in foreign investment, not offer charity. There are companies with records of success willing to invest in this area to make a profit both for themselves and for the people of Gaza."


Related articles: (Gaza, fishing, Israel, Palestinian)

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