Hi-tech execs helping young Arab-Israelis

Company promotes training of Israeli Arab engineers, pushes back against outsourcing trend, hiring Arab manpower instead.

By
December 18, 2011 01:25
3 minute read.
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Computer technology keyboard 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters/Catherine Benson)

 
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Some 140 Israeli Arabs have been trained as hi-tech engineers and are working at Galil Software, a company in Nazareth – providing the country with urgently needed sophisticated manpower, instead of outsourcing engineers in India and Eastern Europe.

The company was set up three years ago by Yitzhak Danziger to integrate Arabs in the industry, where networking with people from the Israel Defense Forces leads to jobs, but to which Arabs lack access.

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Danziger, a Technion-Israel Institute of Technology electrical engineering graduate, spoke about this mission to help people at the Clore Foundation symposium on science and society held Thursday at the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem.

The veteran telecommunications and technology executive with 10 years of experience in board positions at non-profit organizations said there are 80,000 Jewish academics in hi-tech positions, but only about 500 Arabs in the industry.

The country’s severe shortage of engineers force companies to outsource personnel from abroad.

Besides the lack of connections from military service, Arab academics also suffer from stereotypes among managers, the “foreign” Arab culture, living in more distant geographical areas and the fact that some engineering projects relate to the security field for which Arabs do not have clearance.

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Ninety percent of engineers at Galil Software are Arabs.

But Danziger said: “There are many talented Arab engineers who are very motivated.” While haredi women with large families have been trained for programming jobs so they can support their families while their husbands study in yeshivot, said Danziger, “they take short courses of a few months, have not graduated from universities abroad, can’t travel abroad and prefer not to mix with male colleagues.

Arab engineers do not have these problems,” said Danziger.

Although ordering jobs from software engineers abroad is cheaper than here, he continued, the fact that the engineers are in Israel is desirable because of the efficiency, proximity and lack of cultural gaps, Danziger explained.

“In 10 more years, we will be able to train thousands of Arab engineers who will become integrated in hi-tech and can even set up startup companies,” he said.

In the long term, Danzinger continued, Arab high school pupils who are told about the possibility of working in hi-tech will become integrated in the industry if they learn relevant subjects and go on to higher education.

Another example of scientists working for the benefit of Israeli society was Prof. Shimon Schocken, founding dean of the Efi Arazi School of Computer Science at Herzliya’s Interdisciplinary Center.

A certified mountain biking instructor who in the last decade has ridden more than 30,000 kilometers on five continents, Schocken “adopted” a juvenile institution for teenage boys who had been in trouble with the law and were going nowhere.

Every Tuesday in all weather for the last five years, he has led expeditions on wheels for youths in trouble to various parts of the country, from the Golan Heights to the Negev, and providing them with the best bikes, outfits and other equipment.

Although some cursed at him and even threw things at first, they came to respect and love him and developed self confidence as they became acquainted with parts of the country rarely visited by the public.

Riding with them 50 km. a day are hi-tech managers, doctors, lawyers and others.

“I do it, because I enjoy it. I feel like I’m on the roof of the world,” he said.

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