'Founding Father' of Israeli Hi-tech Remembered as 'A Giant'

Uzia Galil, who pioneered radio, fiber optics and PCs and laid the groundwork for Israel's tech industry, passed away last week at 96

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Uzia Galil, considered a founding father of the Startup Nation, died last week in his home in Haifa. He was 96
Uzia Galil, considered a founding father of the Startup Nation, died last week in his home in Haifa. He was 96Credit: Haim Tarragon
Amitai Ziv
Amitai Ziv

Uzia Galil, one of the fathers of Israeli hi-tech, died last week at the age 96 at his home in Haifa. 

In 1962, Galil founded Elron and led the company for 37 years. He died last Wednesday and today Elron trades on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange at a market cap of 650 million shekels ($200 million). He also served as chairman of Elbit Systems for many years.

“Uzia Galil was the founding father of Israeli high-tech. At the start of the 1960s, when Israel’s brand was oranges and orchards, he founded Elron with the vision of building a knowledge-based industry,” Elron said in a statement. 

Galil was born in Romania and immigrated to Israel in 1941 at age 16. Six years later, he completed his electrical engineering studies at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and was drafted into the navy. After his discharge, he began parallel careers as an academic and entrepreneur.

Uzia Galil in 1967 at the Haifa offices of Elron-ElbitCredit: Ilan Bruner / GPO

“One of the giants has departed from us, the first techie, perhaps the first startup entrepreneur –  even before the word even existed,” Yossi Ackerman, who served as Elbit’s CEO until 2013, said in a eulogy. The two were close and Ackerman had visited him for the last time just days before Galil died.

“Galil was one of the pioneers of the personal computer and the first radios, developed fiber-optic communications, miniature electronic components and a range of products for the navy,” Ackerman said. 

Galil was awarded the Israel Prize in 1997 for his contributions to society and the state and held honorary doctorates from several academic institutions. Last March, the city of Haifa said it was developing a park in his name at the north entrance of the Carmel Tunnel.

“A lot of Israeli high-tech companies got their start with him and then grew and thrived. Over the years he was involved in private enterprise, acting as an angel investor until his final days. In his last meeting, he spoke to me among other things about solutions for prolonging life. Uzia contributed as well with this creative thinking, his courage to do things others didn’t dare, to say, ‘Let’s try it.’ He had technological courage,” said Ackerman.

“Elbit, Elscint, Orbotech, Zoran, Netvision, Given Imaging are just some of the scores of Israeli companies that grew out of Elron and Uzia’s vision. Until his last days, he was involved with young entrepreneurs and new companies –  a man of the people whose modesty and humanity are hard to find today,” Elron, the company he founded, said.

Haifa Mayor Einat Kalisch-Rotem said: “David Ben-Gurion once said that history doesn’t write –  history does. Uzia Galil was a prime example of these words, being an entrepreneur, a founder and achiever, a man of vision and action in every aspect of his life.”

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