Updated: Dec 29, 2021
This is part of a major five-year plan to reduce the gaps between the Arab and Jewish sectors across the board. Only 1.2% of employed Arab citizens work in high-tech
A special event was held las week in the city of Nazareth, to commemorate the Israeli government’s decision to allocate NIS 600 million (approx. $193 million) towards increasing participation of the country’s Arab sector in its booming high-tech industry over the next five years.
The event was hosted by Tsofen, a non-profit organization founded by Jewish and Arab high-tech professionals and civil leaders, whose goal is to facilitate the integration of Arab citizens into high-tech firms as well as expand high-tech in Arab towns. Tsofen also co-authored the governmental plan, together with the Forum of the Heads of Local Arab Authorities.
Representing 21% of Israeli citizens, almost two million people, the Arab population is the largest minority in the country. But in 2019, only 1.2% of all employed Arab citizens worked in the high-tech industry, compared to 10.7% of Jewish employees. This, according to a recent Bank of Israel study.
Tsofen’s data indicates that, of that small percentage, only 8,000 Arab citizens work as engineers. Now, the goal is to have 20 thousand engineers in 5 years’ time – a 60% increase.
“We’ve reached a high point, but our work isn’t done yet,” said Revital Dueck, Co-Executive Director of Tsofen, at the event. “Some people write about history, while other make history. We belong to the second group,” added Co-Executive Director, Sami Saadi. “Implementing this plan will help transform people’s lives, and not philosophically speaking.”
“Today, Israeli high-tech embraces the Arab society, but government funds are not enough for full integration. We need leaders, passionate champions. If not, the money will just lie there,” said serial entrepreneur Yossi Vardi, who spoke at the event.”
“At one point, young Arab people went off to study medicine, accounting and law, but the Arabic society has no doubt changed,” said Mudar Yunis, Chairperson of the Forum of the Heads of Local Arab Authorities. “Back then, there wasn’t any faith that the state would promote high-tech integration for this population. But the real test isn’t getting the money – it’s the implementation, and we will succeed.”
Ilan Birnfeld, Chairman & CEO of Deloitte Israel, pledged that the company – which provided counselling for the governmental program – will actively work to recruit more talent from the Arab sector. “For us, this isn’t just another project, but a vision,” he said. “Over 12% of our employees are Arab, and we are facing forward and pledging to increase the number to hundreds and thousands of employees.”
The governmental plan of promoting the Arab sector’s participation in the high-tech industry is only one aspect of a much broader, multi billion NIS five-year plan called Taqadum (Arabic for “moving forward”), intended to reduce the gaps between Israel’s Arab society and the general one (namely, the Jewish sector), and bring about prosperity and integration.
Other than high-tech, the plan – publishde last month – deals with education, transportation, health, welfare, culture, communications, environmental protection, strengthening the business sector, and more.