It’s an unfortunate myth that Israel’s Arab and Jewish populations are rarely in contact with one another and always at odds with one another.
Even people who are aware that Jews and Arabs study together in the same higher-education classrooms and work together in the same hospitals may still believe Arabs are absent from the high-tech arena.
A new photo campaign led by Tsofen (a nonprofit organization integrating Arab engineers into high-tech) and the companies Intuit, Hailo and Sanofi sets the record straight at a time when tensions over the Gaza conflict are taking over social media.
The campaign on social-media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook shows pairs of Arab and Jewish coworkers under a slogan in Hebrew and Arabic that translates roughly to: “Working together! Exactly now we are giving a voice to partnership.”
It’s all about highlighting the acceptance, camaraderie and mutual tolerance going on every single day in the Startup Nation.
“The challenging period we’ve been experiencing since October 7 emphasizes our collective duty to address the issue,” said Tsofen CEO Maisam Jaljuli, an Israeli Arab woman.
“It warms the heart to see those companies that have already mobilized to take part in an event that deepens the interpersonal and social discourse and contributes to the tightening of the human fabric in the organization,” Jaljuli said.
Amir and Ina
Ina Shternberg, director of product, quality & reliability engineering at Hailo, and her coworker, sales operations manager Amir Haddad, were among the participating pairs.
“I believe that our beautiful ‘inside’ that is with us in the workplace will come out and will also reflect on the hard reality that is outside,” said Shternberg.
Haddad, an Arab, said that “just coming to work these days, and the relationships between all the colleagues in the society, give a sense of sanity and hope that despite everything that is happening outside, it is still possible for things to be different in a diverse workplace.”
Jaljuli said that Tsofen would like to see more companies “take actions that strengthen the sense of belonging of the engineers from Arab society, and invite more companies to join the campaign and use Tsofen for the purpose of building a bridge and a conversation.”
She points out that workplaces are a critical link as a meeting place for Arabs and Jews, providing opportunities for connection and friendship.
Operating in the Arab cities of Nazareth and Kafr Qasim (Kfar Kassem), Tsofen was founded in 2008 by Jewish and Arab high-tech professionals and economists wishing to develop the high-tech sector in the Arab community for economic benefits and as a catalyst for a shared society in Israel. In 2016, Tsofen won the Speaker of the Israeli Parliament’s Prize for Promoting Mutual Understanding between Jews and Arabs.
“We bridge stakeholders from Arab municipalities, Arab students and graduates, the Israeli government, and the high-tech industry, to promote the establishment of high-tech hubs in Arab towns and integrate thousands of Arab engineers into high-tech firms,” Jaljuli explained.
In 2008, Arab engineers accounted for 0.5% of employees in Israeli high-tech, or about 350 people. According to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, as of November 2023, nearly 15,000 Arabs were employed in high-tech jobs in Israel.
This includes workers in the high-tech industry and those in technological positions outside the industry, constituting 4.5% of all individuals employed in these jobs in Israel.
“Our goal is to increase the percentage of Arab citizens employed in high-tech to at least 10% by 2025,” said Jaljuli.
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