State-to-State Cooperation: Illinois and Israel
Trade and Population Statistics
|Exports to Israel (2022)||
|Percentage Change (2021-2022)||
|Total Exports to Israel (1996-Present)||
|Israel’s Trade Partner Rank (2022)||
|Illinois’s Rank as Exporter to Israel (2022)||12|
|Military Contracts with Israel (2015)||
|Jewish Population (2022)||
|Jewish Percentage of Population||
Binational Foundation Grants
|Agricultural Research & Development (1979-Present)||
|Science & Technology (1999-Present)||
|Industrial Research & Development (1977-Present)||
|Total Binational Grants||
Grant Recipients in Illinois from U.S.-Israel Binational Foundations
Agricultural Research Service, Chicago
America-Israel Chamber of Commerce Chicago:
Founded in 1958, the AICC-C is tasked with developing business relationships between Illinois and Israeli companies. The not-for-profit trade association connects its members into a global network that provides vital information and facilitates business contacts. Members of the AICC-C include manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers, professional and business service providers, venture capitalists, investment bankers, and R&D scientists. Over the years, hundreds of companies have found ways to grow their international trade.
Chicago-Israel Business Initiative:
CIBI is a project of the America-Israel Chamber of Commerce (AICC) that seeks to leverage cooperation between the city of Chicago and the State of Illinois with the Israel Trade and Investment Center to encourage Israel-based businesses looking to expand internationally to locate their North American headquarters in the immediate Chicago area. CIBI works in numerous fields, including Health and Life Sciences, Homeland Security, and Telecommunications.
The Illinois state legislature unanimously passed landmark anti-BDS legislation on May 18, 2015, and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner became the first state leader to sign anti-BDS legislation into law on July 23, 2015. The bill, SB-1761, targets taxpayer-funded public pension funds that invest in companies that have adopted a BDS stance toward Israel. Per the legislation, companies that boycott Israel in Illinois were added to restricted company lists which undergo periodic review and are sent around to managers at all taxpayer-funded public pension funds. The passage of this bill was hailed as the first state-based, concrete action taken against the BDS movement in the United States. The legislation was approved by the Governor on July 23, 2015.
November 2017 - Governor Bruce Rauner made his first official visit to Israel in early November 2017. Rauner met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time during his trip, and the two discussed economic and cyber-security issues. This was Governor Rauner’s second time in Israel, he and his family had taken a vacation to the country in 2010. One of Rauner’s daughters enjoyed her experience in Israel so much that she returned later to work for a time on Kibbutz Lotan in the Negev.
July 2011 - In a trip of goodwill and trade cooperation, Assistant Majority Leader Jeff Schoenberg, state Senator Ira Silverstein and Congressmen Jesse Jackson Jr. and Peter Roskam accompanied Governor Pat Quinn’s delegation to Israel, where they visited a Motorola Solutions facility and Better Place - an Israel-based organization developing charging stations for electric cars across Israel – and signed a “sister lakes” agreement between Lake Michigan and Lake Kinneret. The two officials also attended a ceremony at Ben-Gurion University for an agreement promoting the exchange of faculty, research, and other partnership between Ben Gurion and the University of Illinois-Chicago. Finally, the delegation met with high-ranking government officials in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
July 2008 - In a buildup to the 2008 presidential elections, Senator Barack Obama made an official visit to Israel as part of a whirlwind tour of seven different countries. In Israel, Sen. Obama stressed how much he wants to work toward solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and used his short time in the country to visit the southern Israeli city of Sderot, which has been under constant rocket attack from Hamas in Gaza since the Israeli withdrawal in 2005.
June 2006 - A delegation led by members of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity ran a trade mission as part of “Opportunity Returns,” Gov. Blagojevich’s comprehensive economic development strategy to create jobs and expand economic growth throughout Illinois. “This trade mission to Israel strengthened our already solid relationship with this key trading partner, providing an opportunity for Illinois companies to establish new trading partnerships in the robust homeland security sector with Israel’s leading science and technology providers. We are also pleased to have launched a business-focused fellowship program between Illinois and Israel that will help attract the best and the brightest from both countries in order to commercialize research, develop products and create jobs,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
Partners For Change
The U.S.-Israel relationship is based on the twin pillars of shared values and mutual interests. Given this commonality of interests and beliefs, it should not be surprising that support for Israel is one of the most pronounced and consistent foreign policy values of the American people.
It is more difficult to devise programs that capitalize on the two nations’ shared values than their security interests; nevertheless, such programs do exist. In fact, these SHARED VALUE INITIATIVES cover a broad range of areas, including the environment, science, technology, education, and health.
Today’s interdependent global economy requires that trade policy be developed at the national and state level.
Many states have recognized the opportunity to realize significant benefits by seeking to increase trade with Israel. Illinois is one of 33 states that have cooperative agreements with Israel.
In 2022, Illinois exported nearly $285 million worth of manufacturing goods to Israel. Since 1996, Illinois’s exports to Israel have totaled more than $6 billion, and Israel now ranks as Illinois’s 32nd leading trade partner. Illinois ranks 12th among all states in exports to Israel.
Additionally, in 2015, Illinois companies received more than $120 million in foreign military financing (FMF) for contracts to provide materiel for the Israeli Defense Forces. Since 1996, Illinois companies have received nearly $917 million in FMF. These include Caterpillar Inc. in Chicago, Honeywell in Chicago, and Siemens PLM Software Inc. in Carol Stream.
Israel is certainly a place where potential business and trade partners can be found. It can also be a source, however, for innovative programs and ideas for addressing problems facing the citizens of Illinois.
Israel has developed several pioneering education programs. For example, AICE introduced an innovative Israeli peer tutoring program to North Carolina that educators adapted for use in the United States. Now known as Reading Together, the program is used in 28 states. The program is designed to help students achieve reading fluency and is mostly used for children in second grade. The hope is that with its implementation, increasing numbers of students will perform at grade level or above.
Illinois has also received more than $12 million worth of grants from binational U.S.-Israel foundations for joint research in science, agriculture, and the promotion of commercial ventures.
A variety of other exciting approaches to social problems like unemployment, environmental protection, and drug abuse have been successfully implemented in Israel and could be imported for the benefit of Americans.
The potential for greater cooperation with Israel for the benefit of Illinois is limited only by the imagination.
Illinois Firms Profit From Business With Israel
As the only country with free trade agreements with both the United States and the European community, Israel can act as a bridge for international trade between the United States and Europe. Moreover, because of the deep pool of talent, particularly in high-technology areas, Israel provides excellent investment opportunities. Some of the nation's largest companies, such as IBM, Microsoft, Motorola, Intel, and McDonald’s, have found that it is indeed profitable to do business in Israel.
Roughly 200 Illinois companies have also discovered the benefits of trade with Israel. Several own interests in Israeli companies or have subsidiaries there, including American National Can Co., A Epstein & Sons International, Motorola, Bio-Logic Systems, and Sara Lee.
Sara Lee, for example, has a minority interest in Delta Galil Industries, an underwear and sock manufacturer in Israel, and now distributes its clothing around the United States.
American National Can has for many years owned an interest in a company at a kibbutz near Haifa. Lageen Box Can Factory, Ltd. makes three-piece metal cans for fruits and vegetables.
High-tech giant Motorola has been in Israel for more than forty years. Some of the technologies developed by the company and now used worldwide, such as its fast, low-voltage 24-bit Digital Signal Multimedia Engine and Chipset for Fiber Optics Distribution Data Interface, originated in Israel.
The American-Israel Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Metropolitan Chicago provides information about trade opportunities and helps match Israeli and Illinois companies that are interested in cooperative ventures. One source of funds for such projects is the Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD).
One good way to break into the Israeli market is through a joint venture with an Israeli company. Funding for such projects is available from the Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD). The United States and Israel established BIRD in 1977 to fund joint U.S.-Israeli teams in the development and subsequent commercialization of innovative, nondefense technological products from which both the Israeli and American companies can expect to derive benefits commensurate with the investments and risks. Most grant recipients are small businesses involved with software, instrumentation, communications, medical devices, and semiconductors.
Since 1977, the Foundation has approved investments of more than $125 million in more than 1,000 projects in 36 states and the District of Columbia. Hundreds of companies, including AOL, GE, BP Solar, Texas Instruments, and Johnson & Johnson, have benefited from BIRD grants.
Dr. Eli Opper, the former Israeli chair of BIRD, has said that BIRD is a strong pillar of U.S.-Israel industrial cooperation and that the extreme success of BIRD has led Israel to adopt similar models of R&D with other countries.
Several Illinois companies, including Amcol International, Molex, Inc., Motorola, Bio-Logic Systems, Display Technologies, Interactive Systems, Encyclopedia Britannica, Wheelabrator Technologies, Siemens Medical Systems, and Zenith Electronics, have benefited from nearly $4.8 million in BIRD grants.
Baxalta in Bannockburn, for example, received a BIRD grant to work with Kamada in Ness Ziona on a treatment for the prevention of lung transplant rejection.
Gabriel Raviv of Bio-Logic said that his company has had two BIRD grants for joint ventures with its Israeli subsidiary to develop medical equipment. The most recent one resulted in the production of a new EEG product that has been doing so well the company will easily be able to repay the grant.
“BIRD helps lower the risk for projects,” Raviv noted, making it easier for companies like his to take chances on developing new products.
researchers are making scientific breakthroughs and developing cutting-edge technologies in joint projects with Israeli scientists thanks to support from the Binational Science Foundation (BSF). BSF was established in 1972 to promote scientific relations and cooperation between scientists from the United States and Israel. The fund supports collaborative research projects in a wide area of basic and applied scientific fields for peaceful and non-profit purposes.
Since its inception, and in today’s value, BSF has awarded over $700 million to more than 5,000 research projects involving thousands of scientists from more than 400 U.S. institutions located in 46 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Many of these projects have led to important scientific, medical, and technological breakthroughs with wide-ranging practical applications.
BSF-sponsored studies are highly successful in achieving their two main goals: strengthening the U.S.-Israel partnership through science and promoting world-class scientific research for the benefit of the two countries and all mankind. The BSF grants help extend research resources to achieve milestones that might not otherwise be attainable; introduce novel approaches and techniques to lead American researchers in new directions; confirm, clarify, and intensify research projects; and provide unmatched access to Israeli equipment, facilities and research results that help speed American scientific advances. BSF has documented no less than 75 new discoveries made possible by its research grants and counts 37 Nobel Prize, and 19 Lasker Medical Award laureates among its joint partners.
Institutions in Illinois have shared with their counterparts in Israel nearly $4 million in BSF grants. The Universities of Chicago and Illinois, Northwestern and Northern Illinois are among the grant recipients.
One study led by Dr. Mark Brand from the University of Illinois and Professor Aaron Avivi from the Institute of Evolution at the University of Haifa found that genetic mechanisms in subterranean mole rats can be targeted for the development of anti-cancer drugs. Funded by BSF, the landmark discovery revealed that a mechanism mole rats have developed to survive the low oxygen levels in their underground habitats is similar to the mechanisms used by tumors to survive and progress in humans, and, if the gene is targeted correctly, could help in the discovery of specific anti-cancer drugs.1
The University of Chicago’s Ronald Harvey is collaborating with a “first-rate chemist” at Hebrew University to investigate a molecule suspected of being a carcinogen and its relationship to hydrocarbons. The research may add to the understanding of the connection between sources of hydrocarbons like cigarette smoke and car exhaust and causes of cancer.
Gene Robinson, a professor of biology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, believes strongly in the character and importance of research sponsored by BSF in the states. He notes, “The BSF has been extremely successful in fostering significant scientific discovery... this program promotes scientific excellence at the highest levels and I hope it continues to enjoy a high level of support from both Israel and the United States.”
Another project with important implications for health is being conducted by Jim Grotberg at Northwestern. He and his collaborator are leading authorities on the fundamental mechanics of gas exchange in the lungs and the causes of wheezing and crackling sounds. Their research has laid the groundwork for understanding shortness of breath in people with asthma and emphysema. Grotberg does math modeling while his colleague at the Technion is an “outstanding” experimentalist in physiology. Their work has been especially useful in the development of treatments for infants with pulmonary problems.
James Norris of the Argonne National Lab and a Hebrew University colleague are using magnetic resonance to develop an understanding of the chemistry of photosynthesis. The significance of this work is clear. Norris explained when you consider that food, coal, and petroleum are products of photosynthesis. The BSF grant has provided Norris with extra manpower for his lab and the opportunity to work with one of the world’s experts in the use of liquid crystals.
Minerals & Refractories Ltd. (M&R) is an Israeli importer of refractories and ferroalloys to the heavy industry, as well as a consultant on the selection and application of these materials to the cement, fertilizers, oil refining, electric, and glass industries. M&R has been involved in the engineering and installation of refractories in large-scale projects in many of the heavy industries in Israel in which refractories are used. U.S.-based Vesuvius Corp. is one of the largest refractory manufacturers and suppliers in the world, as well as the largest monolithics producer in North America. The two companies jointly developed a complete integrative redesign of the refractory and insulating lining structure of various electrolysis cells and other vessels in the chemical industry. The project dealt simultaneously with the testing, development, selection, and sometimes upgrade of highly durable refractory materials, as well as with structural and installation design of the lining. The project concept will be applied and tested first at the Dead Sea Magnesium (DSM) plant. The joint venture intends to offer its customers the ongoing supply of relatively large, ready-to-install, pre-fabricated refractory lining building units of a cell, which will be engineered, cast, heat treated, and delivered ready-to-install to the customer.
CMT Medical Technologies is an Israeli company specializing in digital radiography and digital fluoroscopy products. Illinois-based Richardson Electronics Ltd. (RELL) is a publicly held U.S. manufacturer of electronic components and subsystems for diagnostic medical imaging. The companies are collaborating to develop and market a product for upgrading medical X-ray radiography systems from film to state-of-the-art digital systems based on flat panel detectors (FPDs). The upgraded system offers will offer all the advantages and performance of digital radiography at a much lower price than completely new digital X-ray radiography systems.
Researchers at the University of Chicago teamed up with researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in 2014 to begin work on a water scarcity project aiming to make clean drinking water accessible to everyone in the world. In 2012, University of Chicago-based researcher Matthew Tirrell approached an old friend at Ben-Gurion University about working together on water scarcity research. The Israeli team of scientists was sought out by Chicago University because of their hands-on experience dealing with water scarcity issues through technology. Steve Sibener, a scientist from the University of Chicago, stated in an interview with the Chicago Tribune that water scarcity “Is the issue of the day. Hundreds of millions of people are at risk of not having water.” Researchers from the two Universities are working on projects such as using a standard inkjet printer to apply contaminant-repelling chemicals to a water filter. They are also using radioactive isotopes to track water movement in hopes of finding more hidden underground aquifers.
Researchers from BGU and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) announced in April 2017 that they had produced a breakthrough in water filtration technology. The team developed ultra-filtration membranes that can filter viruses of all sorts out of drinking water, including deadly norovirus. Their findings were published in the first half of the 2017 edition of the periodical Water Research.
In 2020, the U.S.-Israel Energy Center, managed by BIRD provided funding to Northwestern University and BGN Technologies, the technology transfer company of BGU, for the development of new technologies to solve global water challenges. The project has a budget of $21.4 million, including a $9.2 million grant over five years from the U.S. Department of Energy and Israel’s Ministry of Energy together with the Israel Innovation Authority.
The project team will research, develop and commercialize technology in three areas: energy-efficient enhanced water supply, wastewater reuse, resource recovery, and energy-water systems. “Water and energy are inextricably linked: water purification and distribution are primary uses of energy, while water is essential for energy production,” said Aaron Packman, professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of Northwestern’s Center for Water Research. “CoWERC [the Collaborative Water-Energy Research Center] will enable us to develop new technologies that will reduce the energy needed for desalination, improve recovery of water and energy, and support safe water reuse.”
“Interestingly, urban wastewater contains more energy than the amount needed for its purification,” said Moshe Herzberg, professor of environmental engineering at BGU. “Our aim is to recover this energy, along with nutrients, and reuse the treated water.”
The other U.S. partners in the project are Argonne National Laboratory, Yale University, DuPont Water Solutions, Evoqua Water Technologies LLC, CycloPure, Inc., Current Innovation NFP, and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD). The additional Israeli partners are the Technion Research and Development Foundation (TRDF), Mekorot, Fluence Corporation, and the Galilee Society.
In 1978, the United States and Israel jointly created the Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD) to help fund programs between U.S. and Israeli scientists for mutually beneficial, mission-oriented, strategic, and applied research into agricultural problems. Since its inception, BARD has awarded more than $130 million to U.S. institutions for 1,352 joint projects. A 40-year review in 2019 involving 20 case studies estimated the foundation’s contribution to the U.S. economy at $2.7 billion. BARD research has resulted in the adoption of approximately 200 new agricultural practices, around 40 commercial engagements, and approximately 100 patents and breeding rights licenses.
Most BARD projects focus on either increasing agricultural productivity, plant, and animal health, or food quality and safety and have been influential in creating new technologies in drip irrigation, pesticides, fish farming, livestock, poultry, disease control, and farm equipment. BARD funds projects in 45 states and the District of Columbia, and administers collaborative efforts between Australia, Canada, and Israel as well. It is difficult to break down the impact on a state-by-state basis, but overall, BARD-sponsored research has generated sales of more than $500 million, tax revenues of more than $100 million, and created more than 5,000 American jobs.
Southern Illinois University, the University of Illinois, and the University of Chicago have received grants totaling more than $3 million, with the University of Illinois receiving most of these funds.
At Illinois, Harris Lewin is working on a project to identify genes in dairy cattle that control important traits like milk production. He calls the collaboration a “good marriage of expertise” between his work as an experimental geneticist and his colleague’s quantitative research.
Another Illinois scientist interested in dairy cattle is starting his third BARD project. Sidney Spahr works in the only major U.S. program concerned with dairy automation. His first BARD grant involved the use of automation for data acquisition about cows, such as the measurement of milk yield. The second grant focused on integrating the data into a software management system. His current research focuses on the use of ultrasonics to develop a way of measuring a cow’s body fat.
Spahr’s work focuses on the biology of the problem, while the Israelis develop the technology. The collaboration is important because the United States has de-emphasized livestock engineering.
At the University of Chicago, Donald Steiner is studying growth hormones to see if they can be genetically engineered to grow fish faster for food. His collaborator can do things in her lab that Steiner can’t, such as making the protein for use in the fish and analyzing the biological activity. “She works at the protein level,” he said, “and we’re at the DNA/RNA level.”
The University of Illinois is also a member of the International Arid Lands Consortium, an independent nonprofit organization composed of four other universities, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Jewish National Fund, which explores the problems and solutions of arid and semiarid regions. According to the director of the consortium, Israel is “by far the leading country” in the application of various technologies studied by the group.
Other Cooperative Programs
The University of Illinois is a member of the International Arid Lands Consortium, a Congress-funded independent, nonprofit organization established in 1989 that conducts research, develops applications in arid and semiarid land technologies, and applies its projects in countries around the world, including the U.S. and Israel.
UJA Partnership 2000 Communities
Hillel Campus Profiles
4801 W. Peterson Ave., #315
Chicago, IL 60646
|America-Israel Chambers of Commerce
180 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 911
Chicago, IL 60601
Tel. 800-645-3433 or 312-641-2944
Email: [email protected]
|America-Israel Chamber of Commerce & Industry-Metropolitan Chicago
180 North Michigan Ave., #911
Chicago, IL 60601
Email. [email protected]
|Sherwin Pomerantz, Director
American-Israel Chamber of Commerce/Chicago
c/o Atid EDI Ltd
Bldg. 2, Har Hotzvim, P.O. Box 45005
|Elgin Area Jewish Welfare Chest
330 Division St.
Elgin, IL 60120
|Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs
c/o Atid EDI Ltd
Building 2, Har Hotzvim
P O B 45005, 91450 Jerusalem
111 E. Wacker Dr.
Chicago, IL 60611
|Jewish Community Center of Chicago
5050 West Church St.
Skokie, IL 60077
Tel. 708-675-2200 x152
520 S 2nd St.
Springfield, IL 62701-1735
|Jewish Federation of Champaign-Urbana
503 East John St.
Champaign, IL 61820
|Jewish Federation Greater Rockford
1500 Parkview Ave.
Rockford, IL 61107-1821
|Jewish Federation of Metro Chicago
1 S. Franklin
Chicago, IL 60606
|Jewish Federation Of Peoria
5901 N Prospect Rd.
Peoria, IL 61614
|Jewish Federation Quad Cities
209 18th St
Rock Island, IL 61201-8706
|Jewish Federation Of South Illinois
6464 W Main St #-7A
Belleville, IL 62223-3811
|Jewish Federation of Springfield
730 East Vine St.
Springfield, IL 62703
Sources: World Institute for Strategic Economic Research.
Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD).
United States-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD).
United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF).
Amanda Morris, “U.S.-Israel consortium launches $21.4 million initiative to develop water-energy technologies,” Northwestern Now, (March 11, 2020).