A Welcome Israeli-Palestinian Detour: Tech Startup Coalition Is Doing Just That

A Welcome Israeli-Palestinian Detour: Tech Startup Coalition Is Doing Just That

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is centuries old and shows no signs of resolution from their causes, namely deeply held religious and political beliefs that pit one against the other. And then there’s the underlying fear and strong convictions that manifest as absolute certitude in things for which there can be no certainty. Of course, it is way more nuanced than that, actually to an extreme degree, but you get the gist.

Conflict resolution often requires creativity or in the very least expanding perspectives beyond mere cause and effect. In other words, introducing a new relationship that lacks all the baggage of the conflict itself. And an Israeli-Palestinian tech startup coalition may be part of this resolution, one that can demonstrate how, sharing a common interest and goal, can be a welcome detour.

As explained in the following excerpt originally published in NoCamels.com, Israel’s biggest problem in bolstering its highly touted proclamation as “StartupNation” is a labor shortage. The demand for coders that StartupNation has stimulated isn’t being met by Israeli’s workforce alone. StartupNation is a couple of thousand coders short of the demand it has created. Indeed, a good problem to have. The solution: Bring their neighbors into the mix. Palestinians currently are producing 3,000 coders per year from their own higher learning institutions.

And it’s no pipe dream. It’s happening right now…

Hire The Neighbors: Could Israeli-Palestinian Tech Initiatives Prove To Be A Win-Win Arrangement?

By Viva Sarah Press, NoCamels June 18, 2018 

Israel’s tech talent shortages are a well-known problem, and the government and local businesses are constantly coming up with new initiatives to train programmers and coders to fill this need.

Israeli and Palestinian entrepreneurs believe they have a “win-win solution” for the growing mid-level tech talent crunch in Israel: Hire the neighbors.

“We need engineers for high-level programming and together with the Palestinians, we can build a large Silicon Valley for the Middle East,” David Slama, senior director for Palestinian Authority activities at Mellanox Technologies, tells NoCamels. “We have the relevant engineers, we have the relevant ideas and unfortunately, here in Israel, we’re missing talent [that the Palestinians have] on their side. Together we can build a bridge that develops great products for the whole world.”

Israel’s role as the “start-up nation” is world-renowned. But over the years, local companies have had to outsource to other countries due to a lack of engineers. Slama says Israeli companies should look no further than the Palestinian Authority areas, noting that some 3,000 Palestinian information and communication technology graduates enter the market each year.

“But about 75 percent of them cannot find relevant jobs,” he says, noting their forte in web UI (user interface) and high-level programming.

Mellanox and ASAL, a software and IT services outsourcing company based in Ramallah that employs some 250 technical experts around the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, began cooperating at the start of the decade.

The Israeli maker of high-speed computer networking products was among the first blue-and-white companies to outsource to Palestinian software developers in the West Bank and Gaza. Today, more than 120 Palestinian engineers and software developers work for Mellanox.

“We’re not taking jobs out of Israel. Israeli companies are already outsourcing to Eastern Europe, the Far East,” Murad Tahboub, CEO of ASAL Technologies, tells NoCamels. “Just one hour’s drive [from Tel Aviv], we have a pool of talented, available engineers. The demand here is much less than the supply. This could be utilized for the Israeli and international markets.”

Addressing the elephant in the room, namely the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Tahboub says “it is not a social stigma to work with Israeli companies, on the contrary.”

“Political news is not only what the Palestinian people are all about. We want to have an export-oriented economy based on knowledge and innovation. This is our biggest vision. Innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship is the way for the future,” he explains.

Rawabi seeks high-tech fame

The latest Palestinian Mellanox employees are based out of the Rawabi Tech Hub, in Rawabi, the first planned city built for and by Palestinians in the West Bank, just 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) outside Jerusalem. So far, $1.4 billion has been invested in the city – by the developer and Palestinian businessman Bashar Masri, alongside Qatar investors.

The tech hub is a place of optimism. Here, Palestinian engineers and software developers from around the West Bank come to work in well-equipped, brand new surroundings in an open-air, upscale commercial and business mall known as the Q Center, reminiscent of Mamilla Mall in Jerusalem. Within the tech hub is CONNECT, an open-space collaborative workspace similar to WeWork.

“Rawabi is in the middle between Tel Aviv and [the Jordanian capital of] Amman. It could absolutely be a hub for innovation not just serving the Israeli and Palestinian markets, but serving the whole region,” says Tahboub.