ISRAEL - Tech Bringing Israelis and Palestinians Together

Arno Froese

Israel may be known as the Start-up Nation, famed for its tech start-ups that are supported by one of the largest venture-capital industries per capita in the world.

But Israeli-Palestinian relations have been relentlessly grim ever since the foundation of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent Arab-Israeli conflict that has been rumbling on ever since.

Initiatives like Tech2Peace are trying to bridge divides between the two communities.

The student and volunteer-led program brings Israeli and Palestinian youths together to learn tech skills—3D and graphic design, website creation, app development—and to engage in conflict resolution dialogue.

Participant Zada Haj says she had “zero knowledge” of animation or 3D modeling before, but by the end of the session she was able to turn her ideas into creation and develop skills that would help her get a job.

Palestinian entrepreneur Adnan Awni Jaber also says Tech2Peace was the gateway for him to make Jewish friends in Israel.

“I believe that technology can break walls between any two sides of the conflict because it’s borderless,” he tells the BBC.

“There’s no physical border than can keep these two sides from contacting each other.”

When Tomer Cohen and his Israeli and Palestinian co-founders were thinking of ways they could foster long-term partnerships between youngsters, they came up with the idea of giving them life skills that could enable them to continue working together.

“We thought, OK, let’s do this with technology and programming,” says Mr. Cohen. “When young people come to our seminar, they’re not thinking, ‘OK, you’re Palestinian and I’m Israeli,’ they’re thinking, ‘I want to improve my life and you want to, as well. We have something in common.’”

Closer co-operation also make commercial sense, argues Israeli-American investor and entrepreneur, Yadin Kaufmann.

He started the Palestinian Internship Program (PIP) in 2014 to provide young Palestinian graduates with work experience at leading Israel-based companies.

“For most Palestinians, being a part of PIP is the first time they’ve encountered an Israeli other than at a checkpoint,” says Mr. Kaufmann.

“For most Israelis it’s the first time they’re able to speak with a Palestinian and work with them on a professional level.”

In 2008, he founded Sadara Ventures, the first venture capital firm to target the Palestinian tech sector exclusively. Sadara is now supporting six portfolio companies that have raised $70m (£54m) in venture capital funding so far.

Mr. Kaufmann’s latest initiative, the Palestinian Partnership Fund, would provide grants for joint ventures between Palestinian entrepreneurs and companies in Israel, other countries in the Middle East and the US., 30 April 2019

Arno's commentary

There is no doubt that Arab-Palestinians have been the underdog since Israel’s independence was proclaimed in 1948. Of course, there are multiple reasons for it; in particular terrorism, which required Israel to exert stricter control of the population. But, the article shows that intellectuals and entrepreneurs in particular, see open doors in the future. It concludes: “The issues are difficult and deeply embedded, but at least technology is helping to foster dialogue—an essential prerequisite for peace.”

For Israel, the Arab-Palestinians can be considered strangers, but that applies in the opposite direction as well. Here is what the Bible says: “But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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