Israel is known as the “Startup Nation”, but not all of its citizens have benefited equally from the astronomical wealth creation in sectors like defense, clean energy, medical devices and cybersecurity.
Especially the nearly 21 percent of the citizenry who are Arabs – which casts doubts on the nation’s reputation for inclusivity, and could eventually stall growth for a nation of just 9 million people, leaders say. The Israeli government is recognizing that and has announced a plan to invest about $1 billion in economic development programs for Arab Israelis over the next five years.
Aiman Saif, general director of the Authority for Economic Development of Arab Minorities in the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is in the Southeast this week to outline the plan.
Conexx, the Atlanta-based America Israel Business Connector, helped host Mr. Saif in Birmingham last night, Feb. 10, and is hosting him in Atlanta Feb. 11 as part of an ongoing series of events focused on harnessing the energy of the Arab community as the “next engine” for Israel’s growth.
Guy Tessler, president of Conexx, told Global Atlanta that the country’s innovation culture sparks economic power that doesn’t always trickle down to disadvantaged in society.
“Two of Israel’s fastest growing populations, the Jewish Ultra-Orthodox religious population (Haredi), and Israeli Arabs – those mostly Muslim and Christians who live within the borders of Israel and are citizens of the country – benefit the least” from wealth creation in key sectors, Mr. Tessler wrote in an email to Global Atlanta. “This under-participation in the high-tech opportunity widens the economic gap within the population thus posing a threat to Israel’s internal stability and its image as a fair and just society.”
The Conexx program, the third in a series, shows how Israel is trying to foster inclusion and participation by removing barriers for entrepreneurs and engineers. Conexx does the same, aiming to go beyond education in its programs to personal interactions that will lead to business ties.
“We are taking our business, economic development and research missions to Israel to meet with incubators and companies in Nazareth, visiting hospitals in Haifa and Jerusalem where Arabs and Jews work side-by-side to save lives and innovate, and connecting with organizations such as the Interagency Task Force and Tsofen who share our sense of mission. We are also working with individual companies such as Alpha Omega Engineering that has its U.S. headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga.; Remedor Biomed, Sebana Medical, technology incubator and others.”
This article originally appeared on GlobalAtlanta.com on February 11, 2016.