Israel and French experts meet at innovation confab

The French parliament hosted a conference on Israeli innovation at the service of social solidarity involving Israeli and French experts in fields of high-tech, startups, civil society and NGOs.

June 19, 2019 18:22
2 minute read.
France Israel French Jews

People hold Israeli and French flags as they take part in a demonstration supporting Israel on July 27, 2014 in Marseille, southeastern France. (photo credit: BORIS HORVAT / AFP)


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PARIS – The French parliament hosted a conference on Israeli innovation at the service of social solidarity on Wednesday involving Israeli and French experts in fields of high-tech, startups, civil society and NGOs who discussed how innovation and research can increase the integration of minority groups into different industry sectors.

“In 2008, when we started with our initiative, there were merely 350 Israeli Arabs working in the high-tech industry. Today we have reached 6,000. It is still not enough, but the numbers keep growing,’’ said Smadar Nehab, co-founder of Tsofen High Technologies Centers.

Nehab worked for many years as leading engineer in Israel and in California, but the challenge of integrating young Israeli Arabs in the high-tech industry was something that she could not say no to. ‘’When I first came to Nazareth, there were no high-tech companies there. I met with many Israeli Arabs, and they all told me the same thing; they did not believe that they could have any future in the Israeli high-tech industry."

"Together with my partner, we decided to tackle the problem from the side of the corporates. Our approach is to tell the corporates of the big IT companies: you need more people, more diversity, more talents, so turn to the minorities, who are looking for jobs.’’

Nehab told The Jerusalem Post that the model she developed could be implemented also elsewhere, and this is why she attended the Paris conference. “Judging by the reactions in the conference, I think that there are many similarities between the situation here in France, with immigrants from North Africa and other refugees, to what we have in Israel. For many in Israel, but also in France, the ultimate integration into society would be studying medicine. I tell them, study high tech, computer science, engineering.

“Our approach is very pragmatic. We identify and work with companies that need qualified employees. And it is from there that we start helping young people to write CVs, handle interviews, etc. The whole process is designed so that at the end of the line there would be a job. Perhaps also in Europe, this model could be adopted.’’

‘’We have created in Israel a society that is dynamic and vibrant, a model of democracy and diversity where Israeli citizens, Jews and non-Jews unite, becoming this unique partnership that is the success of the state of Israel,’’ added Ambassador Aliza Bin Noun, who emphasized that Israeli and French civil societies have much to learn from each other, especially in the field of innovation.

Indeed, the Israeli participants exposed to their French counterparts a variety of initiatives designed to integrate minorities and people with difficulties into the high-tech labor market. Representatives of the Shekulo Tov group presented their modus operandi of a service provider promoting the employment of people with psychosocial disabilities by providing them with skills development and training programs.

“Civil society and NGO initiatives are not about asking the government for money. We are an industry that generates jobs and creates opportunities,’’ said Ophir Peleg, CEO and founder of Social Export Israel.

Aurore Bergé, who presides the parliamentarian France-Israel friendship group, also hailed the conference. “The already vast field of cooperation between our two countries could be implemented into many more fields,’’ said Bergé.

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