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State-to-State Cooperation: Kentucky 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)


Kentucky’s Rank as Exporter to Israel (2022) 24
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 Kentucky From U.S.-Israel Binational Foundations

Murray State University
Peptides International, Inc.
University of Kentucky
University of Louisville
University of Louisville Medical

Bilateral Institutions

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Cooperative Agreements

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Anti-Boycott Law

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed an executive order on November 15, 2018, banning the award of state contracts to companies that participate in campaigns to boycott Israel. The order states the “Commonwealth of Kentucky unequivocally rejects the BDS movement and stands firmly with Israel.”

Specifically, the order states that a governmental body “may not enter into a contract” unless it “includes a representation by the contractor that the contractor is not currently engaged, and will not for the duration of the contract engage in the boycott of a person or an entity” with which Kentucky “can enjoy open trade.”

Bevin subsequently signed a law that allows the Commonwealth to refuse to do business with companies that boycott other countries with which Kentucky has open trade.

Kentucky Government Missions to Israel

January 2013 - Senator Rand Paul (KY-R) traveled to Israel in early January 2013. While there, he voiced his strong opposition to U.S. foreign aid, saying that “It will be harder to defend Israel if we destroy our country in the process ... I think there will be significant repercussions to running massive deficits.” The trip marks Rand Paul’s first time to Israel, which many spectators view as a sign of his potential run for the U.S. presidency come 2016. Paul met with Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, as well as Naftali Bennett, who leads the Bayit Yehudi party. 

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. States can benefit from Israeli innovations in these areas as well as through collaboration.

In addition, 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. Kentucky is one of 33 states that have cooperative agreements with Israel.

In 2023, Kentucky exported more than $100 million worth of manufacturing goods to Israel. Since 1996, Kentucky’s exports to Israel have totaled more than $1.6 billion, and Israel now ranks as Kentucky’s 30th leading trade partner. Kentucky ranks 24th among all states in exports to Israel.

Additionally, in 2015, Kentucky companies received nearly $17 million in foreign military financing (FMF) for contracts to provide materiel for the Israeli Defense Forces. Since 1996, Kentucky companies have received more than $136 million in FMF. These include LSY Defense, LLC, and Lys International, Inc., both in Louisville, and Lexel Imaging Systems, Inc. in Lexington.

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 Kentucky.

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.

Kentucky has also received nearly $2.9 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 Kentucky is limited only by the imagination.

Kentucky 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.

More than 100 Kentucky companies have discovered the benefits of doing business in Israel, including IBM, Jim Beam, Oshkosh B’Gosh, and Westinghouse.

Coroly Tartar, a contract administration specialist, for Conco Inc., said that they have been selling ammunition containers to Israel for four years. The Israeli military put in a request for a quotation, and Conco bids on them. Tartar said that Israel has been a good customer, and Conco’s experience dealing with Israel has been good compared to other countries.

Off and on for about 20 years, Keco Industries Inc. has been selling air-conditioning units to the Israeli Air Force. Keco manufactures the units, which then go to a freight forwarder (exporter) and then end up in Israel. Jeff Andrews, the contract administrator for Keco, said that they had a pretty good relationship with Israel and that the Israeli Air Force comes to Keco whenever they need a product.

National Band and Tag Company has been exporting chicken bands to Israel for more than 25 years. When the company advertised in an international publication, a few Israeli customers were attracted. National Band and Tag Co. has one or two buyers in Israel who buy large quantities and then distribute them to individuals who want tags. National Band and Tag Co. also sells animal tags to research universities.

HY-Q International’s, B-D Crystal Subsidiary does business with Israel through its offices in Australia or England and through a consortium in California, said Vice President of Sales Pam Deschler. A California company orders frequency control crystal products used in anything wireless, such as timing devices for electric components, and then ships the products worldwide, including Israel. HY-Q has been doing business this way for the past couple of years.

The Information Products Division of IBM has been exporting printers to Israel for the past several years. Rather than going directly to Israel, however, the Kentucky branch ships them to New Jersey, where the actual marketing and selling take place. In addition, IBM has headquarters in Europe that deals mainly with Israel. If the European warehouse does not have a certain item, they may come to the U.S., in which case the Kentucky manufacturer supplies the New Jersey warehouse.

Several other companies in Kentucky also export to Israel through other locations, including Atochem North America, which sells synthetic resin, Ingersoll-Rand Company Centrifugal Compressor Division; and Jim Beam Brands Company which sells whiskey.

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.

Kentucky companies have benefited from more than $1 million in BIRD grants.

Scientific Innovations

Kentucky 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 Kentucky, including the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, have received more than $500,000 in BSF grants.

In 2009, Dr. Michael Pennington of Peptides International, Inc., based in Louisville, received a two-year BSF grant to collaborate with Dr. Jordan Chill of Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv on research into peptide drug ShK-186. The drug, which as of January 2011, was about to enter clinical trials, is hoped to be used to treat multiple sclerosis. BSF facilitated the cooperation between the two sides and Dr. Pennington is thankful to the BSF because the two scientists’ strengths play hand-in-hand with each other on the project. According to Dr. Pennington, “Our aim is to have a better model of the peptide and how it binds to its target receptor so that we might improve on its selectivity characteristics.”

Microbiology Professor Ron Doyle of the University of Louisville Medical College has been collaborating with Mel Rosenberg of Tel Aviv University to study the hydrophobic properties of bacterial cell surfaces. An example of this may be when one has a sore throat; the bacteria adhere to the mucosal cells causing discomfort. Together, Doyle and Rosenberg edited a book for the American Society for Microbiology, which is considered a prestigious honor. Out of this research came a tangible product. Rosenberg started a company in Israel that markets mouthwash that disrupts the hydrophobic interactions between bacteria and tissue. This product has become the most popular mouthwash in Israel. According to Doyle, it removes bacteria, while others only prevent the bacteria metabolism for a while. So far, Rosenberg has one patent in the U.S. and is trying to get another approved by the FDA.

Professor Doyle has also worked with the Garbers, a husband and wife research team based out of Bar-Ilan University. The collaborators studied certain bacterial organisms that kill cystic fibrosis, burn and aged patients. They discovered that if they made a vaccine out of lectins, and carbohydrate proteins, it would prevent the adhesion of bacteria on the tissue of these patients. By preventing this adhesion, they would prevent colonization that turns into toxic bacteria, which ultimately becomes lethal and will kill the patient.

In addition to working with Israelis through BSF grants, Doyle has worked with Professor Itzchak Ofek of Tel Aviv University on his own. They studied adhesion and wrote a widely acclaimed book on the topic. Professor Doyle had extremely positive experiences dealing with Israel and collaborating with their scientists. Regarding the Binational Science Foundation, he thinks it is a great program that needs to be expanded because there are many good proposals that are not funded. Doyle was attracted to the program because he has been “able to maintain a friendship with Israelis and see a sense of ability in them. Money is very wisely spent in Israel and they don’t waste it the way Americans do; $2000 for Israelis goes a long way.” Doyle, also a reviewer of BSF grant applications, said that the program is “very good for the USA by virtue of cooperation with the talented Israelis. We both come out ahead and [the cooperation] is good for both the U.S. and Israel.”

Agriculture Benefits

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.

Kentucky institutions have shared, with their counterparts in Israel, BARD grants worth just over $1 million since 1979.

The prevention of transmitting plant viruses via both fungi and insects and improving the nutrition of cattle are just three examples of joint research projects conducted under the auspices of BARD in Kentucky.

Professor Lisa Vaillancourt of the University of Kentucky collaborated with professors at the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Volcani Center, both in Israel, to research the effect of fungi pathogens on their ability to transmit diseases into harvested crops. With funding help from BARD, the group of scientists revealed that fungi alter pH levels in plants as part of their invasion strategy. This knowledge has been translated into effective postharvest treatments for preventing fungi infection, which have been successfully applied commercially since 2004, and are currently used as the main treatment for all exported mango fruit in Israeli packing houses.

Professor Vaillancourt was especially grateful for all the help that BARD gave in realizing this research project. “I am very grateful for the support my program has received from BARD,” Prof. Vaillancourt said, “it has been an excellent experience for me to collaborate with my Israeli colleagues on an exciting program of mutual interest to the US and Israel.” 

Professor David Harman of the University of Kentucky has been studying the nutritional effects of starch on animals. His overall goal is to improve how animals digest starch by giving them different nutritional treatments that will hopefully enable farmers to improve the growth of their cattle using less feed. Harman is collaborating with Dr. Bruckental of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In Kentucky, the research team studies the effects on beef cattle, while in Israel, they examine dairy cattle. Although distance has been a challenge, according to Professor Harman, he has had a very positive experience sharing data, plans, and comments back and forth with his counterpart in Israel.

Professor of Plant Pathology Thomas Perone, also of the University of Kentucky, has received several BARD grants dating back to the 1980s. He is now studying the transmission of plant viruses by insects with scientists at the Volcani Center, a plant research institute, in Israel. By studying this process, the collaborators hope to ultimately understand virus transmission and find a way to stop it, thus saving many important and useful species of plants. This study is important because it pertains to most plants. The research focuses on the tobacco plant and zucchini. Perone feels that his Israeli counterparts have been “good collaborators.” His last BARD grant recently expired, and he is currently in the process of writing a new proposal.

A team of agricultural economists from the University of Maryland and the University of California found that the economic benefits of just five projects—related to cotton, pecans, and solarization—exceeded all U.S. investment in BARD. New projects promote increased quantity and improved quality of agricultural produce.

Other Cooperative Programs

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Sister Cities

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UJA Partnership 2000 Communities




Western Galilee


State Contacts

Hillel Campus Profiles

Jewish Federation of Central Kentucky
340 Romany Rd.
Lexington, KY 40502
Tel. 606-268-0672

Jewish Federation of Louisville
3630 Dutchmans Lane
Louisville, KY 40205
Tel. 502-451-8840

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).