Any new business requires vision, planning and faith. No one can predict the outcome but with knowledge, determination and hard work, goals can be achieved — even if they take a person down a road they didn’t expect. New Iberia native Beau Beaullieu recently said “yes” when the opportunity was presented for him to take a fact-finding trip for potential business partnerships between the United States — Iberia Parish specifically — and the ancient homeland of the Jewish people, Israel. Although potential business opportunities were the focus, to travel around the world to the Middle-East these days takes faith — and builds it — in the center of faith’s history and destiny. The journey of discovery for Beaullieu is not just beginning. His whole life has been preparing him for a future yet to come. He has many stories to tell.
How did you end up going to Israel earlier this year?
The American Israel Education Foundation is the one that invited me. I’m not speaking for them but sharing my own experience.
A New Iberia friend, JoAnn Parker, made the introduction.
Has your life been easy getting to where you are today, for this?
We opened our business two months before 9/11. My second daughter was born in June and the dot.com bust was later that year. It was probably the worst time to go into business — but we survived that and then hurricanes’ Katrina and Rita hit. Nobody wanted to talk to us about financial planning. They were trying to put their lives back together. We had to survive that, and then the 2008-2009 real estate bust — then the BP Oil spill, so we’ve been fortunate to grow throughout these things.
How does your background fit into this trip to Israel?
The trip was like a three-legged stool. One, Holy Land. They wanted us to learn more about the Biblical side of the Holy Land and how complex it is over there. Complex is a word we used throughout the trip. The issues there are not simple. Economic development was a second leg and the third was the geopolitical situation. You can probably wrap the geopolitical around the other two. Even in the Holy Land and economics, geopolitical is still present.
Did you feel danger?
The people there live with the knowledge at any moment the sirens could go off and they’ll have to go to the bunkers. It’s a part of life and yet, one lady that has lived there since the 1970s still said it is the most wonderful place in the world to live. Everyone except the Orthodox Jews know they will spend time in the Israel Defense Force. It’s expected. I was never afraid. My wife was at peace. We heard things we later learned were attacks in distance cities reported to be unoccupied. Just this week at the Gaza Strip border fence where we took pictures, Hamas attacked with missiles. Israel controls all the water and electricity for the Gaza Strip, and chooses to leave it on. If not, it would be a humanitarian crisis. All over the world, like when we have hurricanes here, Israel is a first responder. There are not just barriers, they have protection walls. We got briefings from journalists and IDF, border to border.
Talk about the experience of seeing the Holy Land.
I was just fascinated by the close proximity of everything, it is small. We got to see the new embassy and not far from there is a hill, and you look out over Bethlehem. There is a fence between Jerusalem and Bethlehem which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority and not that long ago, they controlled east Jerusalem. It was a little bit overwhelming. We’re sitting in the Garden of Gethsemane and looking at the gates of Jerusalem where Jesus came through on a donkey. They are not that far from one another. If the Roman guards are at the gates of Jerusalem looking for Jesus, there’s a little valley between the two. All they had to do was look for a campfire — that was Him. All of that is so close. And the meaning of things, like going into the desert, I learned it wasn’t like we expect or think of desert. It was wilderness but it’s not sand dunes. It was all fascinating. And when you go to the Temple Mount arguably the holiest site in the whole world for Jews, Christians and Muslims — the issues there are much more complex. There is a border wall around Bethlehem. As Christians we can go into Bethlehem, Jews cannot.
Has your trip connected with your life in New Iberia?
We went to the place where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. You could see how Jesus spoke to thousands, because of the acoustics of the mountain terrain and the kind of rock. It had an echo effect. They described it to us and on Sunday when I get back, we’re in Mass and it’s on the Beatitudes. I’m explaining to my son in Mass how Jesus spoke to the people back then. The religious part was really cool.
What potential is there for building an economic link between New Iberia and Israel?
We’ve just begun to explore the possibilities. We had Shabbat with a New York venture capitalist who moved his family there. The Jewish community in Israel reminds me of New Iberia, the passion they have for their faith and sense of family. The family is probably the most important thing to them, and for us in south Louisiana. Today Jews from all over the world are still flocking back to their homeland. And to see how important Israel is to the U.S. and the world. They are very entrepreneurial, and they’re only 70 years old, and so advanced.