Nine months after inaugurating a program to encourage the recruitment and
training of high tech professionals from the Arab sector, President Shimon Peres
on Sunday received a progress report from some of the companies and their Arab
Peres recognized an unfulfilled potential in the Israeli-Arab
community, and in February, established Maantech in a joint initiative with John
Chambers, president and CEO of Cisco Systems, Kav Mashve, Tsofen, Manpower and
MIT. The voluntary coalition of high tech companies that were interested in
recruiting and training high tech professionals from the Arab sector and
integrating them into Israel’s high tech industry also included Intel, HP, SAP,
Oracle, Amdocs, RSA, Galil Software, Google, Matrix, ECI, IBM, NICE, Checkpoint
and CA Technologies, among others.
On Sunday, they gathered at the
president’s residence to celebrate the fact that although the project is going
slowly, it is working.
Zika Abzuk who heads Cisco’s corporate
responsibility division for Israel and the Palestinian Authority, in which she
adapts and implements programs in diverse communities with the emphasis on
collaboration, building leadership and increasing economic opportunities,
reported that since February, 125 Arabs have been added to the high tech work
force. The aim, she said, is to have as many Arabs in high tech as their
demographic ratio in the population.
It’s not as if there were no Arabs
prior to the advent of Maantech, but they were few. For Arab graduates in
computer sciences, engineering and other relevant fields, it was extremely
frustrating to go job hunting and to be constantly rejected, even when they were
One of the drawbacks, it emerged from comments of
representatives of other companies, is that most of the Arab applicants were not
sufficiently proficient in English, which is an essential language in the
Awareness of this problem caused Peres to remark that English
is now a universal language and that everyone should start learning it from age
Aiman Saif, who represents Arab interests in the Prime Minister’s
Office, said although 125 may appear to be a small number in relation to the
number of job vacancies in Israel’s high tech industry, it is a tremendous
forward step for the Arab community.
“High tech was almost a closed shop
for Arab academics,” he said, and voiced hope the revolution in the medical
profession, which now includes a large number of Arab doctors, nurses,
technicians and paramedics, will be emulated in the realm of high
While enthusiasm and morale was high, Orna Segal, managing director
of Manpower Israel, cautioned there were still major challenges
“The train has already left the station, but we’re just at the
beginning of the journey.”
HP CEO Joshua Bakola, said that over the past
eight months, his company had taken on 22 Arabs. The company’s human resources
personnel are head hunting at universities to get the best possible students to
come and work on the principle that each Arab employee, if he or she is
satisfied with their job, will bring in another high tech graduate from the Arab
sector. People who have studied together know about each other, both the good
and the bad, and will therefore bring only the best, he said.
Fassberg, vice president of Intel’s Technology and Manufacturing Group, said the
company had recruited 31 Arabs this year. Of these, half work in the Haifa plant
and the other half are divided between Kiryat Gat and Jerusalem. Fassberg
admitted that until Intel joined the Maantech project, she never understood the
sacrifices made by Arabs to reach their workplace.
She discovered that
someone who has been on the payroll for five years had travelled to work for
hours, at his own expense, and then arrived home at 10 p.m. The company has now
put a stop to this and provides transport through the various villages where its
Arab employees live. This kind of consideration helps to build company loyalty
because the workers realize management respects them and is interested in their
welfare, but also affects their income, because they no longer have the expense
of running a car or paying for public transportation.
It also saves a lot
Mickey Steiner, managing director at SAP reported the company
had taken on 20 Arabs, while Shai Levy, vice president finance at Amdocs, said
when people ask the secret of successfully employing Arabs in high tech, the
reply was there is no secret other than to give everyone equal opportunity –
both Arabs and Jews.
EMC and RSA CEO Michal Braverman welcomed the
Maantech initiative saying diversity was good for the company. More than that,
human resources managers at the company had been trained to recognize potential
in Arab job applicants. MIT’s Erez Benovich noted the Arab high stars are all
working, but there’s a need to find potential new luminaries among the
Only one company, Galil Software, actually has more Arabs than
Jews on staff. Of its 150 employees CEO Inas Said revealed 120 are Arabs, and
even the Jews on payroll, he said, had difficulty finding work
The company works according to high international standards he
said, and is proud the fact that it has brought high tech out of the center of
the country and into the periphery. But he was even prouder when making the
declaration: “We’ve opened a wide door for Arab university
The very first person to find work through the Maantech
project was Omar Gawi, 23, from Kafr Kari. A Technion graduate Gawi is currently
working for Cisco. There wasn’t much awareness of high tech in his village as he
was growing up, he said, perhaps because people were afraid of modernity. Those
making career choices tended to go for something safer like teaching or
But he’d always been interested in high tech, and even as a
high school student he had studied physics and maths in preparation for a high
tech course at the Technion. People tried to dissuade him, telling him it would
be too difficult, but he couldn’t see himself doing anything else. He was
grateful to Peres, to Cisco and to all those involved in the project, saying the
hurdles between the Jewish and Arab sectors should be broken down.
can be outstandingly good at high tech,” Gawi asserted. “Times have changed and
Arabs are much more high tech conscious. Today, there are a record number of
Arab students at the Technion.”
Riham Matar, 24, is also a Technion
graduate. She studied biomedical engineering, and although she passed her
courses with top marks, her qualifications failed to impress employers. It was
extremely difficult for her to find work.
All that changed when her
mother saw a television program about the inauguration of Maantech.
immediately checked out the website and registered. Now she works for Matrix.
She recommended that all Arab students with ambitions to work in high tech get
in touch with Maantech. Speaking on behalf of untold numbers of potential Arab
employees, Matar said she was sure they would contribute qualitatively to the
human capital of any company.
Peres said while there is no formal
discrimination in Israel, it does unfortunately exist in practice, and must be
In thanking the companies that have associated themselves
with the project, Peres said: “Aside from business, there’s a lot of sensitivity
and social awareness here.” Today, he commented, 40 percent of Israel’s economy
is based on high tech.
which offers not only higher salaries, but also
There was no reason he said, why Arabs should not be part of
“We didn’t want anyone to be discriminated against on ethnic or
religious grounds and we had to do something about it,” Peres stated.
blame was not entirely that of Jewish-owned or managed companies, he observed.
The Arabs were also at fault because they weren’t sufficiently
But attitudes changed as the Internet became part and parcel
of people’s lives.
“The Internet is a great matchmaker enabling people
from different backgrounds to communicate more easily than they would face to
face,” said Peres. “It has created a revolution.”
There are now 60,000
Arab university graduates in Israel and 40,000 Arabs are admitted to Israeli
universities each year. Half are women, Peres noted with satisfaction. “We are
not only amending discrimination against Arabs but also against women,” he
While some people are ill disposed to globalization, Peres sees it
as something positive.
“Globalization is a new force against racism and
tyranny,” he said.
The largest market is the global market and any player
who is prejudiced against the color of someone’s skin, or a person’s faith or
ethnic background has lost the battle before it begins.” Peres is also convinced
that if high tech helps Palestinians and Israeli Arabs to raise their standard
of living, this will also be beneficial to the peace process.