Bri­tain has been good to us and we give back

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY DANIEL SUGARMAN

IN 1963, Naim Dan­goor had a choice. A suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man, he could choose to re­turn from Beirut to his na­tive Iraq to re­new his pass­port — some­thing only Jews were re­quired to do — or he could de­cline to re­turn to an in­creas­ingly re­pres­sive coun­try, and for­feit both his na­tion­al­ity and all of his as­sets. In­stead he could join his fam­ily, who he had al­ready moved to Eng­land.

He chose the lat­ter, and came to the UK, start­ing again from noth­ing. But the Dan­goors re­built their busi­ness em­pire, and be­came well-known for their phi­lan­thropy in the UK, Is­rael and fur­ther afield. In 2015, at the age of 101, Naim Dan­goor be­came the sec­ond old­est per­son to re­ceive a knight­hood. He died later the same year.

“My fa­ther made the de­ci­sion, that in the bal­ance be­tween free­dom and wealth, free­dom was in­fin­itely more valu­able”, said his son, David Dan­goor, who un­til re­cently was the Pres­i­dent of the S&P Sephardi con­gre­ga­tion.

“He gave up every­thing, when he was nearly 50, that he had worked for all his life. But Bri­tain has been good to many im­mi­grants, who have in turn given some­thing back.”

Sir Naim cre­ated a schol­ar­ship pro­gramme which helped tens of thou­sands of stu­dents through univer­sity, as well as giv­ing record do­na­tions to both the Royal So­ci­ety of Medicine and the Fran­cis Crick In­sti­tute. He was also very much in­volved in the cre­ation of the West­min­ster Acad­emy, where over 1,000 chil­dren, many from dis­ad­van­taged back­grounds, go to school. The Dan­goor fam­ily has also worked for many years with the Weiz­mann In­sti­tute and Bar Ilan Univer­sity in Is­rael.

Dur­ing a “From Bal­four to Brexit” con­fer­ence on the fu­ture of UK-Is­rael re­la­tions this week, David Dan­goor of­fi­cially opened the Sir Naim Dan­goor Cen­tre for UK-Is­rael Re­la­tions at Mishkenot Hashaananim, Is­rael, in hon­our of his late fa­ther.

“Mishkenot Hashaananim was set up by Sir Moses Mon­te­fiore — again, an ex­am­ple of the Bri­tain-Is­rael con­nec­tion”, Mr Dan­goor pointed out. “I’m con­scious of the fact that it was here [in the UK] where a lot of BDS ac­tiv­i­ties started. There are many streams in the UK — some of them not fully un­der­stand­ing Is­rael, and there­fore be­ing quite in­im­i­cal to Is­rael.

“So I feel we’re well placed to try and do our lit­tle bit to­wards rem­e­dy­ing that, and also to help Bri­tain strengthen its cur­rent friend­ships out­side the EU. Clearly we all know Brexit is go­ing to change things, and the mes­sage from Theresa May and the gov­ern­ment very much is ‘we need to strengthen our good re­la­tions, es­pe­cially with those coun­tries which have ex­cel­lent busi­ness tech­nol­ogy and sci­ence’ — and Is­rael is a top can­di­date in that.

“So I felt, to put my fa­ther there… and to bring Is­rael into an even stronger pos­i­tive light in the UK and to help Bri­tain strengthen its ties with Is­rael, were all great ac­tiv­i­ties that we were de­lighted to be as­so­ciated with.”

Mr Dan­goor in­tends to set up a health­care tech-hub, sim­i­lar to the busi­ness hub which al­ready ex­ists be­tween the two coun­tries. “The won­der­ful NHS is, as a lot of ar­eas of medicine are, a very con­ser­va­tive body. What Is­rael has — partly be­cause it’s a younger na­tion — is a won­der­ful health care ser­vice, which in many fields matches or ex­ceeds what we get here in the UK,” he said.

“And I think there­fore that we need to en­cour­age prac­ti­tion­ers in Is­rael to of­fer to the NHS some of the ben­e­fits they can. It’s a lit­tle known fact that over 20 per cent of the medicines that the NHS uses come from Teva, an Is­raeli com­pany, and it’s ris­ing, head­ing to­wards 25 per cent.

“For six years now we have spon­sored the UK-Is­rael car­di­ol­ogy sem­i­nar, which takes place in­ter­mit­tently once in the UK, once in Is­rael — and a lot of good has come out of that. We feel this health­care hub would take the po­ten­tial to a new level, and of course, the NHS is such a huge or­gan­i­sa­tion, that the po­ten­tial for busi­ness ben­e­fit for Is­rael is vast.”

In­ter­est­ingly, with re­gards to Brexit, Mr Dan­goor said that “Is­rael could fa­cil­i­tate Bri­tain’s ac­cess to In­dia and China.

“Through the work we do with the Weiz­mann In­sti­tute and Bar Ilan univer­sity… we have come to have con­tacts with China and In­dia. We no­tice that they hold Is­rael in very high re­gard, de­spite it be­ing a na­tion in­finites­i­mally smaller in pop­u­la­tion com­pared to their pop­u­la­tions.”

Re­gard­ing the con­fer­ence, which in­cluded Tzippi Livni and Tony Blair, Mr Dan­goor re­vealed that for him, trade and sci­ence would be the most im­por­tant top­ics of dis­cus­sion.

“They en­hance every­thing else,” he said. “If you have good sci­ence, you have ways of deal­ing with rock­ets com­ing over. If you have good sci­ence, you have al­lies who help you in the po­lit­i­cal arena. If you have good trade, you cre­ate wealth for both the coun­try giv­ing the pro­duce and the one re­ceiv­ing.”

I feel we’re well placed to try and do our lit­tle bit

David Dan­goor, with his fa­ther Naim and Prince Charles

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