Steph Wertheimer: A Life of Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Steph Wertheimer, born on July 16, 1926, is an Israeli industrialist, renowned for founding the companies "Iscar," "Blades Technology," and the IMC Group. He is the recipient of the Israel Prize and served as a member of the Israeli Knesset for the Democratic Movement for Change (Dash). Steph Wertheimer's life has been marked by his service in the British Army during World War II, his involvement in the Palmach and the Israel Defense Forces during the War of Independence, his contributions to educational initiatives, economic encouragement, and diverse governance roles. He was also one of the founders of Kfar Vradim. As of the latest estimates, Wertheimer's fortune is valued at approximately $5.6 billion.
Steph Wertheimer was born in Kippenheim, Germany. In 1937, he and his family immigrated to Israel. His father brought the family's flour mill from Germany to the Yitzhak Sadeh neighborhood in Tel Aviv. Wertheimer attended the Tel Nordau Elementary School in Tel Aviv. At the age of 16, he left school and began working in a shop that sold cameras and offered repair services. Concurrently, he pursued studies in optics, including under Professor Emmanuel Goldberger.
Service in the British Air Force and Palmach
In 1943, during the height of World War II, Wertheimer joined the British Royal Air Force as an optical equipment technician. During his military service, he was stationed in Cairo, where he specialized in repairing optical equipment and air conditioning systems on British combat aircraft.
In 1945, he joined the German section of the Palmach, an elite unit of the Haganah, the precursor to the IDF. Wertheimer completed a flight course at Kibbutz Na'an and served in the air force division as a technical officer. He was arrested by the British authorities during the Black Sabbath events and detained in the Rafah internment camp for four months. In 1947, he worked in the military industry of the Haganah, focusing on developing recoilless rifles. During the War of Independence, he served as a technical officer in the Yiftach Brigade and continued to be involved in the development of weaponry, including mortars.
Entrepreneurship and Business Ventures
After leaving the army, Wertheimer worked at the Science Corps and "Mikveh Yisrael 3" (later known as Rafael). However, he was dismissed in 1952 because he lacked an engineering degree. He established a workshop in his backyard in Nahariya, where he produced knives, metal-cutting tools, and sharpened metal plates, marketing his products himself while riding a motorcycle. The small workshop, covering about 20 square meters, eventually grew into "Iscar," a company specializing in the production of metal-cutting tools made by CNC machines. Iscar expanded significantly and began exporting its products to foreign countries. In 1962, a joint Israeli-American company, "Dorcarb," was established in the Netherlands in partnership with "Iscar."
In 1968, following the Six-Day War and the French embargo on weapon sales to Israel, Wertheimer founded "Blades Technology" to manufacture blades for jet engines, supporting Israel's security efforts. In later years, the company changed its name to "Blades Technology."
In 1976, Wertheimer was awarded the Industry Prize in the metal category.
In 1981, his wife, Miriam Wertheimer, opened the "Lehami" bakery in partnership with Gabi Zohar, a contractor from Nahariya. As of 2010, Steph Wertheimer held a 75% stake in the bakery (the remainder owned by the Zohar family). In the same year, he established "Micro Tools," a company involved in the development of precision miniature products for technological industries.
In 1983, his son, Eitan Wertheimer, joined the company, and his leadership led to substantial growth in sales and profits for the enterprise. Eitan Wertheimer was awarded the Industry Prize in 1996 for his contributions.
Steph Wertheimer's life is a testament to innovation, entrepreneurship, and his enduring commitment to Israel's development and security.