The Birth of JBNF
When I first joined as a member of the Jerusalem Business Networking Forum (JBNF) back in 2010, whenever I had a question, that was always the answer I received.
Joe Van Zwaren, a sociable and brilliant Jerusalem “oleh” is the founder of the Jerusalem Business Networking Forum. He has a background in high energy physics and optics and has championed the need for the strengthening of the Jerusalem business scene for many years now. He’s a master “networker” and can be frequently be found at JBNF events moving between circles and helping to make connections.
After spending 25 years as the Director of Exact Science at the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology, he had already accomplished a great deal:
- Joe helped to launch the Internet in Israel in 1984 and was named the best government employee in the country in 1987 as a result.
- He was on the team that built the first online database for Russian immigrant scientists, originally called Klitex. The organization helped place 1,000 professionals into suitable positions here in Israel and later became known as www.jobnet.co.il.
- He assisted in the launch of the first investor-entrepreneur workshops to be held in Israel in 1992 with the MIT Forum (and got them to set up a local chapter here in Israel).
Joe decided that his knowledge and expertise were needed as he saw Jerusalem businesses and Jerusalem residents moving to Tel Aviv or the Mercaz to pursue their professional passion.
When asked about why he started JBNF, this is what Joe had to say:
“…. I discovered that the hi-tech and start-up success of Israel was largely taking place in the Tel Aviv area, at the expense of Jerusalem to the point that Jerusalem was even suffering from a continuous drain of manpower and companies.
Furthermore, Anglos had a definite disadvantage in breaking into the Israeli job market, even in marketing or international business development, where they excel, because they were not part of the Israeli “old boy” network. So we launched the Jerusalem Business Networking Forum to create a local business eco-system and our own network to help generate business deals and to help people find work and better integrate. Everybody is invited to our forum- secular, religious, women, men, Jews and Arabs – everybody sharing the same vision of making Jerusalem an economic powerhouse.”
Since the creation of the forum, JBNF has held an average of one meeting per month, with important resources being presented by some of the most gifted members of the Jerusalem and Israel business community. This has ranged from key businesspeople, to government officials, to a panel of experts in an important field or a delegation of international businesspeople followed by a lot of informal networking. When I spoke to Joe, he noted that the organization has also generated numerous job openings and business deals. However, what Joe told us was most important was that the JBNF is creating a community of businesspeople that “think JERUSALEM”. They dream and strive to make Jerusalem’s economy rival that of Tel Aviv’s and believe that it is going to happen.
Joe’s mission is to reverse the population migration from Jerusalem by creating a business environment that will attract young professionals to live and work in our capital. He stressed that he wants his children and grandchildren to live and work in Jerusalem. He told us that he knows that this is going to happen only if we invest now and create the right conditions in Jerusalem, along with thousands of other people who care and think the same way.