An industrialist, a man of peace, an educator, a model. That was Dov Lautman,
who passes away Saturday at the age of 77, after a long illness.
Lautman, one of the founders and former owners of the Delta Textile group, hoped to bring about an educational revolution when he abandoned textile in favor of education. In his educational activity, the late Lautman was not the only one in the Israeli business landscape, but he was the only one who fully devoted himself to it. He served the educational ideals till his very last day. He radiated inspiration and made many follow in his footsteps.
Although Lautman was spared of the dubious title of "tycoon," he was forced more than once to deal with accusations frequently cast at tycoons. In his pursuit of profit at all costs, some said, he was removing labor from Israel
closing textile factories here and opening factories in neighboring countries instead.
He was hurt to the bottom of his heart by these accusations – or defamation, to be precise – which brought tears of frustration to his eyes. "When I transfer simple production lines from Israel to Jordan or Egypt," Lautman would respond to his critics, "I work to preserve the competitive advantages of the Israeli textile industry. In order to survive and use these advantages, it must be sophisticated, advanced, technology-rich, and therefore capable of paying good salaries too. Otherwise, it has no right to exist here."
We must not, Lautman used to say, leave in Israel an industry which pays its workers $1 a day or even $1 an hour.
In the many conversations we had, Lautman always took pride – and rightfully so – in the contribution of the factories in Egypt and Jordan to the growing economic and business peace relations, even if it was naturally limited.
From the first day of the Oslo Agreements,
Lautman gave his full blessing to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and was involved in it, ideologically and personally. But as the years went by without any political movement, he was overwhelmed by feelings of helplessness. Nonetheless, he remained alert and attentive to any blow, as light as it may be, of the wind of reconciliation. Reconciliation based on peacemaking between the people, not just between the leaders.
As a person, as an industrialist and as a patriot, the late Dov Lautman cared for the weakest, most helpless and poorest people. He never despaired of working for them, but was close to complete despair over the growing presence of populism in the Israeli society. He saw the improvement and enhancement of the educational system as the key to gap bridging and reducing inequality. He saw shortcuts as careless and undesirable. But shortcuts have become a way of life here; Dov Lautman refused to accept that till his very last day. He was a great man.