February 15, 2022

Israel announces $70m in funding for tech entrepreneurship in Arab society

In January of 2022, Israel officially announced a NIS 225 million ($70 million) program to promote entrepreneurship among Arab society and better integrate members into the country’s booming tech industry. Arab society is currently underrepresented in the tech sector. 

According to ALLMEP member, Tsofen – which works to develop the hi-tech sector in Arab society as an economic lever and catalyst for shared society in Israel, Israel’s Arab population makes up only 3.5% of the tech workforce despite making up roughly 20% of the population. This disparity indicates a serious gap in representation. At the same time, this also represents an enormous opportunity for an emerging generation of Arab professionals in the region.

This money could catalyze a series of tech investments, from both the public and private sector, that would bolster economic growth and collaborative partnerships for years to come. Over the last few years, ALLMEP has seen promising growth among civil society actors and donors interested in the tech sector and the promise of tech and entrepreneurship as a tool for peacebuilding.

For example, ALLMEP member, Tech2Peace, works to build a community of Israelis and Palestinians who are devoted to coexistence and the peacebuilding process. Using dialogue as a catalyst for economic integration, they host 2-week intensive seminars where 15 Israelis and 15 Palestinians live together, engage in difficult conversations, undergo daily training sessions and workshops, and discuss issues related to the conflict, coexistence, and peace. Each participant chooses a tech subject to focus on either programming, 3D design & printing, Web Development, AI for Programmers, mobile app development, etc — and completes a final project within the two-week seminar. Participants also engage in conflict dialogue – led by one Palestinian and one Israeli facilitator with over 12 years of experience – where they gain a deeper understanding of one another’s narratives and share personal stories. They also engage alumni who have completed the program, aspiring to sustain engagement and create a network of Tech2Peace graduates invested in the peacebuilding process.

According to a recent study conducted by Tech2Peace, 86% of participants reported a high/very high increase in new knowledge about “the other’s perspective on the conflict.” Similarly, 95% of participants reported having “a positive interaction with representatives on the other side,” and 84% of participants having “built strong relations with other participants”.

One Palestinian participant remarked, “I didn’t have high expectations from the dialogue sessions. Prior to the seminar, it was the high-tech component that interested me the most, and I didn’t think that joint activities with Jews would lead anywhere. But these sessions took me by surprise…totally…It was the first opportunity in my life that I could express my complex life experiences and could listen to the other side… Because I was not fluent in Hebrew, I often felt inferior in the past, less valued. The language barrier prevented me from having social interactions with Jews. I would completely lose my voice next to them. But today it’s all gone. I have experienced a fundamental change. Today, I have the courage to make my voice heard – and it is largely thanks to T2P.”

Or, Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow (MEET), an MIT-born educational initiative that has created a powerful network of young Israeli and Palestinian leaders who are changing  the political and social landscape in the Middle East. MEET delivers an intensive three-year program focused on technology, entrepreneurship, and leadership. MEET’s three-year program consists of two integrative modules: the intensive Summer Program and the Yearlong Program, which together ensure a life-changing commitment to learning and interpersonal exchange. These are offered to an equal amount of Palestinian and Israeli participants, with special attention to underrepresented and marginalized communities.

MEET’s curriculum covers computer science and python programming, entrepreneurship, cultural dialogue, web development, entrepreneurship, identity and historical narratives, and more, laying the foundation for the next generation of peacebuilders and entrepreneurs working in the region.

With tech investment coming from a variety of sources, including now this $70m investment from Israel, tech is emerging as a major economic engine in the region. Many of ALLMEP’s members are focused on the intersection of peacebuilding and technology, and this investment reinforces the importance and opportunity that tech provides in the region. To learn more about tech entrepreneurship and ALLMEP members working in this sector, visit our members page!