Zeev Stef Wertheimer was born in 1926 in Keiffenheim, Germany. He immigrated to Israel at the age of 11 and grew up in Tel Aviv. He joined the Palmach in 1945, completing a pilot's course in 1947. At that time he made his first acquaintance with industry, joining the Haganah's Military Industries.
Wertheimer established his first factory , Iscar, in Nahariya in 1952. Three decades later, when he expanded the business, he moved it to Tefen. In 1968, at the request of state officials, he established Blades Technologies, which made jet engine parts.
While developing his business, Wertheimer also promoted technology education. He was a founder of the Nahariya vocational school Zur and the chair of the Bosmat School, associated with Haifa's Technion University. He later established and was the driving force behind the Western Galilee industrial zone Tefen and nearby settlement Kfar Vradim. Over the next three decades, Wertheimer also established industrial zones in Omer, Tel Hai, Lavon, Nazareth and Turkey, and tried unsuccessfully to build an industrial park for the Palestinians.
Wertheimer also dabbled in politics. In 1976, he was one of the founders of the now defunct centrist party Dash. Two years later, bitterly disappointed with Dash, he joined the original Shinui movement. As a member of the 9th Knesset, Wertheimer tried to promote export as a means to economic independence, but quickly realized politics was not the place for that battle, and left public life in 1981.
Shortly thereafter, Wertheimer was seriously injured in a car accident and asked his son, Eitan, to take over management of his businesses. In the ensuing years, Iscar made its major international breakthrough, becoming a global leader in metal-cutting tools.
In a December 2004 interview with TheMarker, Eitan said of his father, "Stef never was and never will be a tycoon. He is a prophet. He is not interested in politics, but rather in the best country. That's the way it's been with him since his Palmach days. He tried to be active in politics, in the original Shinui of which he was a founder. Afterwards, he decided politics only had a short term effect. It didn't suit him.
"Stef built industrial parks, entrepreneurial schools and museums. I say he's a prophet because he always saw ten years ahead of everybody. He has the vision to be different. He was the first to say Israel needed t o focus on export, and that the key to growth is the added value we create." (Ora Coren)