Israeli Automotive Industries, Ltd. (AIL) produces many of the most critical vehicles for Israel's military and police. The jeeps, trucks and spider-like six-wheeled desert vehicles made there are tailored specifically to the needs of the Jewish State's security forces.
The company has now unveiled the Sufa Two, a new jeep equipped with the features necessary to transport military personnel throughout the Jewish homeland.
CEO Zvi Neta presents the Sufa 2 at a press conference Monday.
The armored version of the Sufa 2.
The original Sufa Jeep has been called the "prize horse" of the IDF. The only jeep made in Israel, it can be seen throughout Judea and Samaria, as well as cruising Jerusalem's streets.
The Sufa 2, with the Jezreel Valley in the background.
It features more doors, added gears, airbags, back-seat air conditioning, and more. Yet behind the Sufa 2’s elite technology and comfort lies a deep sense of Jewish and Israeli values.
The AIL plant is located in Upper Nazareth, overlooking the Jezreel Valley. There is something very traditional and even religious about the facility, despite the fact that only a handful of the employees are outwardly observant Jews. A simple sign on the security-gate reads "Sabbath-Observant Factory," meaning no work is done on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. Additionally, all the food served at the facility is Kosher.
A worker producing metal components for the Sufa 2.
On the side of the building is a prominent photo of the new jeep against a rustic Israeli background. In the upper right-hand corner of the billboard are the Hebrew letters “Bet Samech Daled” – which stand for "With Assistance From Heaven."
A large banner in the factory's courtyard. An abbreviation for "With Assistance From Heaven" is in the upper right-hand corner.
The plant was founded in 1966, at a time when even the United States would not sell weapons to Israel. It was established by Jewish immigrants from America who specifically chose Upper Nazareth as the home for the new facility.
Upper Nazareth could be considered "an isolated settlement in a densely populated Arab region." However, like many other Arab population centers, Upper Nazareth is located outside of the disputed Jewish provinces of Judea and Samaria.
Upper Nazareth's Mayor, Menachem Ariav, believes the factory has been and continues to be a blessing for the community, which is increasingly in danger of becoming an Arab town, ironically due to efforts to settle the Galilee led by Shimon Peres.
Upper Nazareth Mayor Menachem Aviav
"A resident of Upper Nazareth can move a couple miles to the west and receive tax breaks and assistance for settling the Galilee," Ariav says, "while Arabs will offer him large sums of money for his home and move in."
One of the factory’s aims is to provide employment for the many new immigrants that call Upper Nazareth home. Ninety percent of the 150 people who work there today still live in town.
CEO Zvi Neta (left) and Executive Director Aryeh Kizman (right) stand by as one of the workers speaks with IsraelNationalTV.
CEO Tzvi Neta is proud of the jeeps his company continues to produce, and is even prouder of its capabilities for the future. "We have produced over 80,000 vehicles," Neta said.
Test-driving the Sufa 2s at a nearby off-roading site.
Test-driving one of the Sufas on a mountain near the factory, Neta says the vehicles are a lot like the new immigrants who founded and work in the factory. Both arrive with good parts and engines from the exile, he said, and are optimized and built upon to serve and build the country and the Jewish people.
Engines, imported from the US. "We have the capability to produce them on our own, but it is not economically viable at this point," Neta said.
As the vehicle climbs the rocky slopes, one can see Mount Tavor, where the Prophetess Devorah prophesied and lived, and where an Arab village named Daburiya now lies. From the mountain, one can enjoy a view of the majestic, fertile Jezreel Valley. On a clear winter day, after the rain, one can clearly see the rest of Biblical Israel, across the Jordan River.
"We get many of the components from Chrysler-Jeep," Neta admits. Asked whether Israel could produce the vehicles on its own, in the theoretical case of renewed sanctions against the Jewish State, Neta proudly states, "We could easily produce the entire vehicles completely here in Israel. It is simply an issue of economic viability at this point. If such a need arose, many of the top designers and producers in Detroit would come back home to Israel as well to pitch in."
The original Sufa was not without operational flaws. In particular, soldiers had complained that the vehicle only had two side doors, and the axles did not have the width of the competing Land Cruiser.
The Sufa 2 has five doors instead of three, including a back entrance, and six gears instead of four. Its axles are wider for added stability, and airbags have been introduced as well. Several other comfort features were also installed, such as air conditioning in the back seats and both CD and tape players in the version intended for use by officers.
In addition to producing the new and improved Sufas, the factory produces the classic Abir vehicles – used by the army for various logistical and combat transport, as well as being outfitted as mobile missile launchers.
While neither one nor the other, the Sufa plant has the feeling of both an army base and a kibbutz. The industrial center is colorful, and full of smiling workers.
"Quality is in your hands"
In one massive building, the factory’s workers each operate a separate machine with a few specific tasks. One churns out specifically cut and bent metal sheets that will become the rear doors of the new jeeps. Another creates small metal parts to reinforce easily loosened or damaged areas for the rigors of the Israeli security duties.
Another building houses large vats of chemicals and acids used to treat the metals against rust and for added strength.
Tail-light protectors hanging to dry after being immersed in a chemical-bath.
Yet another building houses a lengthy assembly line where everything comes together and the finished product rolls out into the front courtyard of the factory.
The assembly line
The original Sufa ("Storm") was marketed to the civilian public, but there are no plans to market the Sufa 2. This is due to a provision put in place by former Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu aimed at discouraging the purchase of large SUVs by Israelis.
"It was not their intention, but the ministry rendered production of a civilian version economically unviable due to the sales tax that would be slapped on once they reach the market," Neta says.
And although the Sufa 2 will remain a military vehicle, and not be part of the next wave of transport for the Israeli public, the Jeep maintains its deep connection to both the land and nation of Israel.
(Photos: Josh Shamsi, Arutz-7 Photojournalist)