Nutter trade mission ends with plans for collaboration

Mayor Nutter confers with Mayor Nir Barkat (left) of Jerusalem at a meeting in Jerusalem.
Mayor Nutter confers with Mayor Nir Barkat (left) of Jerusalem at a meeting in Jerusalem. (KAIT PRIVITERA / City of Philadelphia)
Posted: November 13, 2013

TEL AVIV - Mayor Nutter's whirlwind 10-day trade trip to London and this city came to an end Monday with an announced collaboration among Drexel University, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as well as the possibility of a similar mission to Philadelphia by Israeli entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

The partnership of Drexel, Children's, and Hebrew University had been set in motion prior to Nutter's trip, but the discussed visit to Philadelphia by Israeli entities arose serendipitously during a meeting Sunday of the Philadelphia delegation and Israeli start-ups organized by Pitango Venture Capital group in Herzliya, a suburb of Tel Aviv.

Those two events were among the highlights of a weekend of business-development meetings, receptions, and dinners with local groups, including University of Pennsylvania and Wharton School alumni, and some serious sightseeing in Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

John Fry, president of Drexel, and Steven M. Altschuler, chief executive officer of Children's Hospital, were in Jerusalem with the Mayor Monday to sign the accord with Hebrew University to foster research collaboration in pediatric medicine.

With the agreement, researchers from the three facilities will meet in January in Philadelphia to develop joint projects.

The signing of the agreement came at the end of a day that included a meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres, a tour of the Holocaust museum Yad Vashem, and a visit to the grave of Michael Levin, a Bucks County native who joined the Israel Defense Forces and died in combat in 2006.

Though the planned collaboration of Drexel, Children's, and Hebrew University was made concrete Monday, Nutter received an unexpected offer from Nechemia Peres, founder of Pitango and son of the president, to send a reciprocal trade mission to Philadelphia. The offer came at the end of a venture-capital roundtable at Pitango, where Nutter had the opportunity to pitch his city to Israeli investors and start-up companies.

Peres expressed interest in what he had heard and suggested that he and Nutter organize a trip to Philadelphia so the Israelis in the room and others could see firsthand what the city had to offer.

The mayor was out of his seat in a blink to seal the offer with a handshake.

"We will do everything to make this a success," Nutter said.

The day before, the mayor made an emotional journey to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, where he visited some of the most sacred sites of Christianity and Judaism.

As he explained to his staff and other trade delegates, the visit carried a special meaning, since this is a place that his grandmother, a guiding force in his youth, had always longed to see but never did.

"She was afraid to fly, but it was the one place she was willing to get on a plane for," Nutter began, before being overcome for a moment.

"Because," he continued, "because she knew God would not let something happen to her if she were on the way to the Holy Land."


chepp@phillynews.com

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