Israeli economy: Nazareth becomes a high-tech location

Status: 07/30/2022 15:22

Arab Israelis are still under-represented in the country’s booming IT industry. Nazareth, Israel’s largest Arab city, now wants to attract high-tech companies in particular.

Johannes Reichart, ARD Studio Tel Aviv

When people hear the name Nazareth, the first thing they think about is religion, the Bible, and Jesus Christ. The dome of the great Basilica of the Annunciation towers over the old town. According to tradition, Maria’s house stood there. A place steeped in history, the change of which is visible: the Microsoft sign is on the office building opposite the basilica. Salesforce, Broadcom and other software companies have also settled here.

The largest Arab city in Israel attracts with lower rents than in the large cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa and qualified young people. Several private Catholic schools bring well-educated Christian and Muslim Arabs to the labor market each year. Until now, many of them have been looking for a job in one of the largest Israeli cities or abroad.

More and more Arab developers see their startup future in Nazareth

Johannes Reichart, BR, Mittagsmagazin, July 29, 2022

Start-ups are calming down

The IT sector continues to thrive in Israel. Israeli software companies have successful products all over the world, especially in the security sector, but also in the health and service sectors. The country is technologically far ahead – but not when it comes to the composition of employees in IT companies. Until now, almost exclusively Jewish Israelis worked in this area. According to the Israeli Ministry of Economy, 95 percent of them are scientists, technicians and engineers of Jewish origin. For several years, changing governments in Israel have been trying to make better use of the potential of the country’s Arab population.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government plans to spend around 170 million euros over the next five years to support the Israeli Arab population in high-tech sectors. Additional courses, financing of Arab start-ups and the expansion of infrastructure in Arab cities are planned. As the largest Arab city in Israel, Nazareth is a model, says Hans Shakour of Tsofen NGO: “Ten years ago it was impossible to use ‘Nazareth’ and ‘high-tech’ in one sentence. looks completely different, the city has developed. ” According to the organization, there are currently 1,500 IT engineers working in Nazareth, and 41 corporations and start-ups have settled there.

I am looking for young talents

You can see how well connected the scene in Nazareth is now during the “Nazareth Innovation Night”, a meeting of web designers and programmers in a luxury hotel in the city. The organizer of the event is Tsofen. The organization was founded in 2008 by Jewish and Arab Israelis with the aim of integrating more Arab developers into the Israeli high-tech sector.

One of the participants is Shaden Hakim. The 27-year-old web designer hails from Nazareth and develops user interfaces for the Israeli IT group Amdocs. The company has offices in Nazareth, within walking distance of Hakim’s home. He thinks it’s a good thing that more and more software companies are coming to Nazareth: “We have a lot of talent in Nazareth. If IT companies are now around, it encourages even more young Arab Israelis to enter the sector. “Hakim is a Christian and attended a private Catholic school.

Like many developers, she wants to live close to her family and speak her mother tongue at work. At companies in Tel Aviv or Haifa, this is not always possible, he says. And: There are also other young Arab women working in her company, which is still rare: “I hardly knew anyone from my background who worked in this field. So that was completely new to me. Also as women ”.

Women, Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews are underrepresented

Women, Arab women and even ultra-Orthodox Jews are still under-represented in the IT industry, according to the Ministry of Economy. Targeted support in specialty schools and regions, such as around Nazareth, is also beneficial to the state, says IT expert Shakour. “It’s a win-win situation: the technology industry gives more workers to develop, and young people don’t have to travel to study high-tech, science and engineering. And the region is reaping the benefits of well-paid jobs. ”

AlphaOmega shows that start-ups from Nazareth can do it too. The company produces medical devices for measuring brain waves. AlphaOmega now has 150 employees; mainly Christian and Muslim Arabs, but also Jews work at the company’s headquarters near Nazareth.

Christian-Arab electrical engineer Imad Younis, after graduating from university, repeatedly applied for a Jewish-Israeli company without success. At the time, most tech companies were dealing with orders from the arms industry, and as a young Arab-Israeli engineer, he says he had no chance. Without further ado, Younis set up the start-up himself. He and his wife developed a prototype to diagnose diseased areas of the brain 30 years ago.

Today, his instruments are used in brain surgery in over 600 hospitals around the world. Younis is pleased that more and more Arab specialists are now finding a place in Israel’s booming IT industry: The world is moving forward and the Arab-Israeli population is a bit behind, so we need to try harder and catch up in this sector.

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