3/5/13 10:00 AM – Back from Israel

I recently got back from 12 days in Israel, an amazing trip that was courtesy of a wonderful group that just wanted to bless my wife and I. If you go, try to go with Randy Smith of Wandering Shepherd Ministries, a former archeologist, long-time Bible scholar and former trainer in the very stringent Israeli guide program. We had other guides pass by and tell us that we had the best teacher in Israel, and I believe it.

After a long drought, Israel had more rain this winter than anyone can remember. Rather than the usual light brown color, Israel was green and flowering this year. The Sea of Galilee, which provides most of Israel’s water for drinking and widespread irrigation was back up to full level.Unfortuntely, there is a huge cloud of locusts over Egypt that may be heading Israel’s way, so we’ll see.

Of course, President Obama will visit Israel shortly as part of a Middle East tour. Really, the proper term is Near East since Israel, Lebanon and Egypt border the Mediterranean Sea.

Israel’s economy has been very strong and did not suffer the huge dip most western countries did in 2009. Its GDP was positive in both 2008 and 2009. Since then it has grown much more rapidly than the US and is expected to grow 3.5% this year, a year in which the US will likely see growth of 1% – 2%. Israel has more entrepreneurs per capita than any country in the world and is very strong in the high tech, medical, and chemical fields. A big natural gas field was recently discovered off its coast.

The Israel stock index had the highest risk-adjusted return of any of the 24 developed country stock markets during that span.According to the Jerusalem Post, “The Bloomberg Riskless Return Ranking shows the Tel Aviv TA-25 Index (TA-25) returned 7.6 percent in the 10 years ended February 17 [2012], after adjusting for volatility, the highest among 24 developed- nation benchmark indexes.”

Israel has 120 ADRs trading in the US but the easiest way to invest in Israel is to buy ISL, a closed end fund. EIS and AMDEX also invest in Israel but with poorer recent track records. I am not recommending ISL here, just giving ideas to consider.

Unless you want to buy ADRs of Israeli companies, and I have owned TEVA Pharmaceuticals from time to time, the largest generic drug maker in the world, the only two ways to invest in Israel are via two closed end funds – ISL and