Dame Stephanie Shirley, Britain's first Ambassador for Philanthropy, made her first visit to Israel this week, to address a conference of non-profit-making organisations in Jerusalem.
The 78-year-old millionairess, a kinderstransport refugee who made her fortune from her computing company, Xansa, said that her trip convinced her that Israel is a "wonderful country. Israel had a spiritual quality which I did not expect to feel in such a strong way."
Despite the Jewish tradition of charity, Israelis are not big donors. Last year, the country ranked 39th out of 153 in the World Giving Index. And when they do give, it is often to charities that give cash or food donations to the needy. "Israel has now become mature country but, from the point of view of philanthropy, still behaves as a country that the world supports," Dame Stephanie said.
In her address at the Amuta21C conference, she called for moves to create a culture among Israeli charities in which funds have a longer-term impact. Much Israeli giving, she said, is "generous charity rather than strategy-driven philanthropy". She also suggested that giving be taught in Israeli schools.