NEAR EAST REPORT AIPAC'S BIWEEKLY ON AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY

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The Florida-based company Cook Machinery has exported citrus processing equipment to Israel for the past 35 years.
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Florida Gov. Charlie Crist traveled to Israel in 2007 as part of a week-long trade mission. He met with Israeli leaders, including Shimon Peres, who is now Israel’s president.

State to State: Florida and Israel

“Florida”: The word alone evokes a number of American icons, such as Disney World, Cape Canaveral, South Beach, and the Everglades as well as frequent hurricanes. The Sunshine State has a large Jewish community—about 750,000—and is home to many Israeli expats.

Given this demographic, it is no surprise that Florida has the highest concentration of Israeli corporations in the United States. In fact, more than 250 Florida companies have benefited from doing business with Israeli firms.

The Florida-Israel Busiess Forum plays an important role in connecting American businesses with Israeli ones. There are also a number of non-profit organizations that introduce Americans and Israelis to each other. One of them, the Florida-Israel Institute, invites Israeli citizens to study full time at a Florida university.

Yaron Zoller, a 2004 graduate of Florida Atlantic University, was chosen as a recipient in 2006. He wanted to pursue a doctoral degree in South Florida, even though the rest of his family lived in Israel.

“I know that nothing can stop my desire to succeed,” Zoller said. “Florida-Israel Institute has been supporting me all throughout my academic journey. I know that I could not have made it without [them].”

Joint Research

Israel and Florida have taken advantage of joint research-and-development opportunities through BARD, the Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund, and BIRD, the Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation.

The United States and Israel established BIRD in 1977 to fund and stimulate the research and development of U.S.-Israeli teams for the mutual benefit of both countries. Since then, BIRD has funded more than 740 joint high-tech R&D ventures that have generated sales of $5 billion, tax revenues of more than $700 million in both countries and created an estimated 20,000 American jobs.

BARD was created in 1978 to finance the research efforts of American and Israeli scientists striving to solve agricultural problems. States across America have benefited from the program. As a result of BARD-funded research, Florida potato farmers have enjoyed a Grade B to Grade A upgrade in their crop, plus a $400 to $600 per ton increase in profit.

Israeli Companies in Florida

Despite being a peninsula with high annual rainfall, Florida still experiences water shortages—especially freshwater for crops. The Israeli company Netafim has helped Floridians save water with drip irrigation and greenhouse technology. And, Netafim’s products have assisted Florida growers to reap healthier, more profitable harvests of citrus trees.

Florida also shares its citrus expertise with Israel. The Florida-based company Cook Machinery (CM) has been exporting citrus processing equipment to the Jewish state for the past 35 years, according to CM engineer John Cook.

Another Israeli company, Klil Industries, has helped Floridians protect their homes from hurricane damage. Of all of the recorded hurricanes to make landfall since 1851, 36 percent of them impact Florida. In order to decrease the risk of storm damage, the Florida government purchased about $650,000 worth of Klil Industries’ unique anti-hurricane paneling.

Sister Cities

Florida and Israel have also formed small communities through sister-city agreements. Gainesville, in northern Florida, has a particularly unique program, with two partners: an Israeli city, Kfar Saba, and a Palestinian one, Qalqilya. Their vision includes fostering “friendly relations and mutual understanding among peoples of the three cities.”

Both Florida and Israel stand to reap significant benefits from this friendship in the future, as they work to accomplish scientific breakthroughs, strengthen business ties and form community alliances.

AIPAC Diamond Summer Intern Adar Morag contributed to this article. BACK TO TOP