Stav Ben-Dor: Gymnast turned head of missile propellant plant

Stav Ben-Dor credit: Eyal Itzhar
Stav Ben-Dor credit: Eyal Itzhar

"It's immensely satisfying - we're doing things that are really important for our country."

Stav Ben-Dor (36) - Head of the Materials and Processes Department at Manor - Advanced Defense Technologies Division, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems

Personal: Married and mother of three. Lives in Yesod HaMa'ala in the Upper Galilee.

Education: Bachelor of Chemical Engineering at Ben Gurion University of the Negev

Previous positions: Manager of the explosives process and materials facility at Rafael

One more thing: Loves Pilates and is the second person in her family to make the Globes "40-Under-40" ("My brother, Ari Urieli, was on the list in 2007")

The official title held by Stav Ben-Dor (36) - "Head of the Materials and Processes Department at Manor - Advanced Defense Technologies Division at Rafael Advanced Defense Systems" - belies its essence. Ben-Dor heads one of Israel's special strategic enterprises - one of those that lets us sleep quietly at night, and that's no cliché. Ben-Dor deals with the chemicals that make explosives, and what she does makes missiles fly - that's pretty much all that can be said about it.

These missiles are critical to the citizens of Israel, key components of defense systems like Iron Dome, David's Sling (formerly known as Magic Wand), and others. "I really, really enjoy myself, and it's immensely satisfying," Ben-Dor says of her job. "We're doing important things, not just shelf products, but something that's really important for the State of Israel."

Ben-Dor manages more than a hundred employees, most of them older than her, and is considered the best among experts in her field. She was born on Moshav Herut in central Israel, and a quick look into her background reveals the roots of success. Along with completing the five matriculation units required to study physics mathematics and chemistry - her chosen profession - she was a competitive gymnast. "The gym was my second home every evening till 9:00, five days a week, not including competitions," says Ben-Dor."It let me fulfill the demands I put on myself to do things all the way, be competitive, and of course, you can't do that without strong self-discipline and staying focused on your goal."

Just before her military service, Ben-Dor was faced with the decision of whether to serve as an outstanding athlete. She decided not to, and served two years in an elite combat intelligence unit whose name she withholds, but says, "I was surrounded by the best people there and that has an impact."

Upon completing her service, it was time to realize her second dream - chemistry. She studied chemical engineering at Ben-Gurion University, "Close by the 'hard core' of Israel' chemistry industry at Ramat Hovav." And yes, she did work at factories there for two years.

After marrying Iddo, a born and bred member of Yesod HaMa'ala, a village in the Upper Galilee, they decided to move to the north and look for work in the area. And so, Ben-Dor came to the Rafael factory in the Krayot neighborhood outside Haifa, which deals with explosives. Within a year, she was appointed section head. Her rapid rise continued over the next three years; she was promoted to department head, and two years ago she took over management of the entire plant, becoming the youngest manager at this level in Rafael, and perhaps in all of Israel's defense industries.

"It's less going around in work shoes and lab coat, and more managing from the office desk, and I'm hardly hands-on anymore. I love chemistry, but it's clear that senior management is an advancement for me on the value and content chain."

"Being a woman in this system is irrelevant," says Ben-Dor. "My manager is a woman, the division head is also a woman." Ben-Dor herself works to increase the number of women in advanced technology industries, and is particularly active in Rafael's NG Next Generation project that encourages high school girls to pursue advanced STEM studies. One question she consistently gets from the girls she meets is, "Can you be a mother and also be a senior executive?" Stav's answer: "Of course it's possible. You need a support system of grandparents, a partner, and a babysitter - the bottom line is that if your work is very important and interesting, you can make things come together. It's a matter of will, and a strong will conquers all."

Executive recommendation

Irit , Head of Production and Production Engineering at Rafael

"Stav manages a plant of about 100 employees that has 14 different and diverse technological centers; each center with its own unique production infrastructures that require ongoing support of process engineering at the plant. The technological centers include plastics, elastomers, composites, optical fibers, and ceramic radomes. The department she manages is responsible for the fabrication of unique products that interface with most Rafael systems, including Iron Dome. In the past year, Stav has also been involved in the establishment of a new and unique factory that will propel Israel's defense industry forward. Her vivacious and charming personality on the one hand and her modesty on the other enable her to create excellent working relationships with everyone around her, and everyone at the plant follows her lead."|

This article is part of a larger project, "40 under 40", published by "Globes" in Hebrew. 

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on January 27, 2022.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2022.

Stav Ben-Dor credit: Eyal Itzhar
Stav Ben-Dor credit: Eyal Itzhar
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