Ever since taking office three-anda- half years ago, President Shimon Peres has
consistently advocated integrating haredim and Arabs into the Israeli workforce,
especially hitech industries.
He has discovered that many haredim, both
men and women, have a natural aptitude for hi-tech, meaning they can better
support their families and make a significant contribution to the
The same goes for Arabs. There are many academically qualified
members of the Arab community who would prove to be a real boon to Israel’s
hi-tech industries, Peres has said, but there has been a general reluctance to
Unless they find employment in Arab hi-tech companies or in
companies abroad, they gravitate between frustration and
Just over a year ago, Peres went from talking about the
subject to acting on it, when he took a busload of prominent Israeli
industrialists and investors to Nazareth, with the aim of promoting joint
ventures with Arab-owned companies and investments in start-ups in the Arab
Some of the company executives who were on that bus ride took the
challenge even further and looked for ways and means to employ Arabs in their
On Tuesday, Peres, accompanied by about a dozen company
executives who have become part of his business coalition, visited the
predominantly haredi city of Elad, to look at existing places of employment and
discuss creating new job opportunities for haredim.
Some of the company
executives who already employ haredim spoke glowingly of their highly developed
sense of work ethics, their punctuality and their ability to produce and deliver
On Wednesday at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv, in the presence of
top-ranking executives representing about 20 companies, Peres launched a new
initiative that will enable more Arabs to find jobs in Jewish-owned hi-tech
companies. There is now a trilingual portal (www.maantech.org.il
) that offers
fresh hope to qualified Arab university graduates looking for work in hi-tech
The portal is operated by Manpower, whose representative,
Orna Segal, pledged that contrary to general practice in Israel, each and every
application will receive a response, and where applicants need help in putting
together their resumes, Manpower will guide them. Manpower will maintain contact
with all the companies that are part of the business coalition and will refer
suitable candidates to them, she said.
Zika Abzuk, business development
manager for Cisco, who has been the key coordinator of the project – or as one
of the other participants described her, “the beacon” – explained that in
means to sit together, and in Hebrew it is an address.
every Arab student has an address,” she said, noting that each year hundreds of
Arabs graduate from university but can’t find work.
Arabs compromise 20
percent of the population but only 0.5% of employees in hi-tech industries, she
said, adding, “We want their ratio in hitech to equal that of their demographic
The portal is a central address for every Arab who is looking for
work in hi-tech, Segal said. Applications with resumes can be made in Arabic,
Hebrew or English. Arabs will be treated like any other job applicants, she
Said Bahari, 23, an Arab student at the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem, welcomed the initiative, saying one of the most difficult problems
for Arab students is language.
“They can’t always express themselves,”
Bahari said, “even though there are many qualified Arabs who could integrate
well into hi-tech.”
Many Arabs don’t really make an effort because they
expect to be rejected, he said.
Intel Israel general manager Maxine
Fassberg said she had recently interviewed an Arab applicant who told her he had
sent his resume to numerous companies, and not one of them had replied. She gave
him a job at Intel that begins this week, she said.
Moshe Lichtman, head
of Israel R&D for Microsoft, said the underlying message to Arab students
is: “We are interested in you, and we want to give you work.”
Lautman, cofounder and chairman of Kav Mashve (the equalizer), a business
coalition of employers to promote equal employment opportunities for Arab
academics, said he had a lot of experience working with Arabs, and they worked
just as well as anyone else. Unfortunately, there is a lot of prejudice against
them, he said, because too many people think they are not up to standard, or
that they will pose problems for Jewish clients.
“There is no doubt that
integration of the Arab sector will contribute, not only to the economy but to
coexistence,” said Yehoshua Bakula, of Hewlett-Packard.
Tower Jazz CEO
Russell Ellwanger said, “Every young person, Arab or not, needs to feel that
they’re cared for.”
For the past three years, Tower Jazz has gone to the
best Arab high schools in Nazareth, identified the best students and has given
them four-year internships and scholarships to the Technion, as well as oneon-
one mentoring, he said.
“The student learns to love the mentor, and the
mentor learns to love the student,” Ellwanger said, implying that this was the
best way to overcome prejudice and discrimination.
SAP managing director
Mickey Steiner said his company’s slogan worldwide was “Stop, Listen,
Some of the cultural misunderstandings between Arabs and
other Israelis could be ironed out if more human-resource managers stopped to
listen and tried to understand, he said.
IBM CEO Meir Nissenson said
providing jobs for Arabs was not a charitable exercise. “I don’t see our
presence here as giving something, but as something in our own interests,” he
said. “There is always a need for high-caliber human resources, and we should
take advantage of their availability.”
“Every one of us, at some stage in
our lives, was a minority, and we have to remember this,” Nissenson said. “I
remember how I felt as a young immigrant without the ability of
Shai Onn, country manager for CA Technologies, said, “We’re
not doing this just because we want to help the Arabs, but because we want to
Eiman Seif, who is one of many Arabs who works at Beit
Hanassi, said, “The Arab population can contribute a lot to the Israeli economy.
All they need is a chance.”
Nice Systems CEO Ze’evi Bergman said the
potential of Arabs has been recognized, but it’s not good enough to employ only
Arab program engineers; more Arabs need to be in managerial
Peres said the new initiative was a means of rectifying a
Last year’s bus ride to Nazareth was not a public-relations
gimmick to get media coverage, he said. Since then, he said, a special $50
million fund was established to encourage hi-tech students from the Arab sector,
and the government has contributed $20m. to the fund, with the rest from
the private sector.
In his visits to Israeli Arab communities, Peres
said, he had become aware that there is an extraordinary high ratio of academics
and an even higher unemployment rate, and this problem had to be addressed.
“They live among us, and we must give them work,” he said.
there are Arab doctors in every Israeli hospital, Peres urged that there be Arab
programmers, engineers, etc. in every Israeli hi-tech company.
“If we can
accept them when we are sick, we ought to be able to accept them when we are
well,” he said. “We will all benefit from a more positive approach toward our
At Elad on Tuesday, Peres was equally keen to do away
with stigmas relating to haredim
, especially the misconception that they don’t
want to work.
“We must dispel this negative image,” he said.