Naftali T.S. Gordon
Former Homeland Security Analyst (Currently at

The Israeli Mentality (What that really means)

The Israeli Mentality (What that really means)

Cultural and sometimes insurmountable obstacles arise when working with Israeli business, companies and organizations, usually in the start-up or small business arenas. When this happens, the parties outside of Israel, English speaking partnerships (Anglos), or those who have emigrated to Israel find it difficult if not impossible to continue the business relationship and relate the failure to the “Israeli Mentality”, or as is so often heard “That’s Israel”.

The reality for that psychological process is simple to understand. The reasons why it happens and why the company or corporate relationship between Israeli business and American business fail is more difficult to understand. Let us first examine the end result, the simple aspect which immediately creates friction and entropy.

The Israeli Mentality “That’s Israel” – The Simple Definition

Israeli companies, persons, entities; Whichever way you define the decision maker, wants money from the Anglo market. America, Europe or anywhere there is a large advantage to solicit business. Here comes the biggest mistake, which I have seen time and time again, the thought or overt statement:


If there are any Israeli companies or decision makers reading this and you approach with this marketing strategy, you have just self-destructed your company, your brand and “you” will be looking for a job in the near future.  However, you, yes you, reading this will not believe me, because you cannot be wrong, you “know what I need” 🙂

Of course, we have the “I am better”, “I am the best” attitude, although it boils down to the same foundation that you are approaching a business market with an attitude of superiority of self.

Let me now introduce you to an oxymoron (a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction). In business, you may know more about a topic, but you do not know what they need. For the simple fact is that (and this is another cultural topic for further understanding), an American business market knows what they want, even if that is NOT what they need. What they want and what they need are at the same time the same thing and at that same moment completely separate elements. Hence an oxymoron.

Stop thinking like a soldier and start thinking like a businessman. If you are thinking that you know what someone needs and they are not your spouse or child, then you do not know what they need. Human beings are more complex than a classical conditioning canine. You do not elicit a response by ringing a bell. You are not asking the right questions. What do you need, what do you want and how can the knowledge and skills that I have meet that need? Which results in a response to pay for those services.

About 2 years ago I met with an Israeli businessman in the security market. He wanted to show me the “best of the best”. How he knows what his company can do is better, how he knows what needs to be done and how to do it. He also knew when it had to be done.

Here comes the 2nd mistake. Do not give timelines for success. Success is a result of setting goals and objectives. Milestones for reviews and a series of successes and failures. Success is a strategy not a target. Success is a goal which should never be met, because success is always striving to be better, striving to understand, grow and evolve.

I told a friend this week. “Know what you know, and know what you don’t know”. This is what shows knowledge and understanding. For instance, I am not a Krav Maga or shooting expert. Those are not my skill sets. I am a great communications and intelligence specialist. Here is the kicker… I am not ashamed that I am not the best at everything. That is a foolish notion. However, that does allow me to meet with the real-world people, who work hard and want to be successful and have an open and honest conversation about what they need and how I can use the skills that I have to help them meet that need. In order for them to reach those milestones and objectives within their organization.

Why this mentality rears its ugly head is a cultural, societal and anthropological discussion for another article. However, I will provide one piece of concrete advice. There is a saying in Hebrew that goes “Slow, Slow”. Yes, slow down, develop a plan. Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail. Set realistic goals, take chances, monitor your objectives and listen to what your customer is telling you!

About the Author
Naftali T.S. Gordon is a former Communications Specialist, Intelligence Analyst and Explosives Detection Specialist with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Naftali currently leads the strategic intelligence division for and can be reached
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