US agency gives $1 million to boost Israeli Arabs in hi-tech

NGO seeks to promote integration of 10,000 from sector in tech jobs by 2020.

Sami Saadi and Smadar Nehab (photo credit: Courtesy)
Sami Saadi and Smadar Nehab
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The US Agency for International Development is giving an Israeli NGO more than $1 million in order to promote the integration of Arab citizens into the technology sector.
Around 2,000 Arabs work in the hi-tech industry in the country, up from around 300 in 2009, according to the Tsofen High Technology Centers NGO, which is responsible for much of the increase.
Sami Saadi, co-CEO of Tsofen, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Monday that the US is supporting its activities because it sees it as a way not only to improve the standard of living in the Arab sector, but also to promote Arab-Jewish cooperation and integration.
USAID is funding Tsofen, which was founded by Saadi and two partners in 2008, partly because of its success in getting Arabs into Israel’s thriving hi-tech industry. The other two founder are Executive Director Smadar Nehab, with vast experience in the industry, and Yossi Coten, who built and managed the branch of Amdocs in Sderot, implementing a Tsofen-like program for the Negev community.
It has placed Arab technology specialists in large companies such as Intel, Amdocs and HP.
Saadi mentions their success in Nazareth, where Tsofen boosted Arab hi-tech employees from 30-40 to 600.
Its goal is to have 10,000 Arabs working in Israeli hi-tech by 2020.
Asked about the conditions of the grant, Saadi says the NGO must place at least 350 Arabs into hi-tech companies in the coming three years and open a third branch, which will be somewhere in the North. Now, it has centers in Nazareth and in Tira, near Kfar Saba.
And asked who else is supporting the work, Saadi responded that the government and other organizations contribute funds. The EU is aiding its work in the Triangle region, east of Kfar Saba.
“The problem is there is no bridge between the hi-tech sector and Arabs,” explained Saadi, noting that most companies recruit from the central region around Tel Aviv and from those who served in the army.
Israeli Arabs are weaker at networking, which leaves many university graduates in the computer sciences without job opportunities or experience, he said.
In its branches, Tsofen provides internships and helps train and prepare prospective employees.
The NGO’s two main goals are to bring more Arabs to hi-tech and to bring hi-tech to the Arabs.