Journey to Peace: Bruce (Baruch) Gurfein and Joe Cohen, two senior Jewish venture capital fund executives from Dubai, completed this Sunday the first part of the extraordinary journey they have undertaken: the first trip to car from the United Arab Emirates to Israel and back, on the occasion of the two years since the Abraham Accords. On the way, approximately 9,000 kilometers in both directions, the two crossed huge dunes in Saudi Arabia and Jordan, facing extreme weather conditions – all to raise awareness for investment and regional cooperation in water technologies and desert agriculture.
“I have lived and worked in Dubai since 1997,” Gurfein said in a conversation with Israel Hayom. The “Connect” investment fund that I manage, which is a branch of the “Al-Navoda” group, has been investing in Israel for many years – long before the Abraham Accords. Over the past six months, we have decided to create an “accelerator” that will help companies in the fields of desert agriculture and food and water technologies. »
According to Gorfein, in recent years alone, the fund has directly and indirectly invested around $500 million in Israeli companies. “Many of the wars in the world and in the region ultimately result from a lack of water and food, and our idea is to take companies from all countries in the region and establish a platform for them. -form that will allow them to cooperate with a relatively low investment, and to proceed to a larger recruitment after a first proof of concept. We give companies land, water and labor in the destination country – for example, in Saudi Arabia – to prove that their product really works.
“In order to establish the project, which should eventually bring together between 25 and 30 companies, we had to visit many companies from the countries of the region that are candidates to join it, then the idea of a trip on horseback through the desert from the Emirates to Israel, via Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and the Palestinian Authority. The two set off from Dubai in a Nissan Patrol Armada SUV, which has a 5.7-litre eight-cylinder petrol engine and exceptional handling.
Among other things, they equipped themselves with spare batteries and tires, a voltage converter, video and computer equipment, Go-Pro cameras, an outdoor refrigerator, spare clothes and lots of junk food. Fuel supply was also a challenge, because in the Saudi desert you can travel hundreds of kilometers without a gas station. However, Gurfein claims that “the price of a liter of fuel in Saudi Arabia is around two shekels, which was a significant advantage.
“We traveled most of the way on wide roads in Saudi Arabia, with three or four lanes in each direction, but sometimes we had to get off the roads and cross dunes and desert areas. Several times we encountered thunderstorms and sandstorms that started completely suddenly. , and dropped the visibility to almost zero and we couldn’t even see a few feet in front of us.
“Software such as Wiz, Google Maps and satellite navigation systems work less in Saudi Arabia because their maps are not updated, so we navigated using the traditional method – with a paper map. We arrived in Israel exactly when the Abraham Accords were two years old,” says Gurfein.
“Along the way, all the human encounters in which we have participated have been joyful and welcoming”, underline the two. They will now stay in Israel for about ten days, where they will meet President Herzog, the UAE Ambassador to Israel, and senior officials from the local food tech and agri-tech industry, then they will drive back to Dubai – on a slightly different route from the one they arrived on, which will also include a visit to Bahrain.
The two intend to make the current trip the first of similar trips that will take place every year, with the aim of generating as many business collaborations as possible between high-tech companies from countries in the region. The trip, which is funded mostly from personal sources, was organized with the help of lawyer Oded Sela, who also previously produced the trip for the late Roy Sadan, who cycled around the world for about four year.