No one took him seriously when he proposed transforming the abandoned money-printing plant into a high-tech incubator, he says; he had to hire people to draw pictures of his proposed overhaul, which today boasts winding brick paths lined with vibrant flower beds.
“Right now, the Middle East looks like this [run-down building],” he says. “But that doesn’t mean it can’t have some renovation.”
While many people see Jerusalem as one of the most intractable issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with two peoples competing for a foothold in a city they both consider holy, Margalit sees that as an incredible asset.
That’s just one of the ways that he redefines the problem that needs to be solved, which opens the way for different solutions.
Unlike many Israeli entrepreneurs and businessmen, he eschewed Tel Aviv, with its trendy cafes and hub of high-tech firms, for the location of his company. Jerusalem, with its rich history and special place in the heart of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, holds far more creative potential – and thus could become the most dynamic city in the Middle East, he says.
“This is the place where three civilizations meet. That cultural bond could be the fertile land for innovation, creativity…. It’s something that you couldn’t even invent,” he says. “The storms of change occur where there are differences ... you need to tap into this – there is a lot of energy there.”
He sees Israel’s 20-percent Arab population and Palestinians next door as playing a key role in helping Israel to do that.
What politics and diplomacy have failed to do for improving Israel’s relations with its neighbors, entrepreneurial economics could help to accomplish.