Israel will build the first technology park for the Arab sector

Israel will build a high-tech park in Nazareth, the first of its kind in the country’s Arab sector, the Ministry of Economy and Industry announced on Tuesday. The 10-acre park will be built in the Nazareth industrial zone and will house industrial plants, with an emphasis on high-tech industry. The ministry expects the park to supply 200 technology workplaces to the area.

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The statement follows the approval last month of a five-year plan to increase the number of Israeli Arabs in the tech industry, which has a budget of 600 million shekels, or $ 193.6 million. Only 2% of the Arab workforce is currently employed in the field, while 10% of Israel’s total workforce is employed in industry.

The 21 million shekels, or $ 6.8 million in funding for the park, comes from Israel’s previous five-year plan for the Arab sector. With the year nearing its end, the government is rushing to allocate the remainder of the budget for that plan.

Israel’s Minister of Economy and Industry, Orna Barbivay, said in a statement that “the high-tech park in Nazareth is another step towards integrating hundreds of workers into a variety of jobs that will increase the chances that residents of the area find quality employment. “

Arab-Israeli integration into the tech industry will contribute not only to the sector, but also to the local industry itself. Currently, there are more than 10,000 positions waiting to be filled in the technology sector, a core element of Israel’s economy. It also aligns with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s stated aspiration to increase the number of Israelis working in technology by 50%. In particular, the average salary in the Israeli tech industry is more than double the average salary in the local market as a whole.

The Church of the Annunciation is seen through the office window at the Business Incubator Center in Nazareth, northern Israel, on June 3, 2015. (Credit: REUTERS / NIR ELIAS)

Sami Saadi, co-CEO of Tsofen, an organization that works to help Arab integration into the Israeli tech scene, told The Media Line that the new tech park, as well as the new five-year plan, “in our eyes, is a good sign, a positive sign “.

Nazareth, located in northern Israel, can already be considered the capital of Arab technology in Israel, with dozens of companies, including large multinationals, active in the city. Some of the companies are located in a privately built industrial zone built by Israeli businessman Stef Wertheimer. Saadi notes, however, that “this will be the first [industrial zone] built by the government. “He adds that, unlike the Wertheimer complex, the new park will be dedicated exclusively to high-tech.

Saadi has an optimistic view not only of the trend in government policy to encourage Israeli Arabs to work in high-tech, but also of the impact the park will have, which he believes will attract new businesses to Nazareth and provide more job opportunities. He also notes that another park is planned for Kfar Qasim, an Arab city in central Israel, which is expected to provide employment for 3,000 residents of the city and the area. “It will add significantly to the number of Arab employees in the industry, and it will also bring Jewish engineers who will also be able to come to Nazareth and Kfar Qasim and work” in those parks, he said.

Sharif Sharif-Safadi, CEO of Nazareth Municipality, told The Media Line that the decision is in line with the municipality’s vision “to transform the city … into the high-tech center in the country, at least for the sector. Arab”. The municipality is working with various government ministries, as well as organizations such as Tsofen de Saadi, to make this aspiration a reality.

Sharif-Safadi explains that many Arab students now choose to study topics related to the world of technology, and Nazareth wishes to remain relevant. “For us it is important to bring these companies here because that way the younger generation is kept” in the city, he says. Tech workers with tech salaries also support the city financially. Rather than going to work elsewhere and then choosing to live elsewhere, a thriving local tech scene will keep them in town, supporting the growth of the city and local businesses.

The development of this branch of industry will also help Nazareth, better known as the place where Jesus of Christianity spent his childhood and youth, to diversify. “We want to advertise Nazareth not only as a tourist city,” says Sharif-Safadi. While tourism has its place of honor as a traditionally central source of income, “now we see that there are new fields.” COVID-19 and its devastating effect on the tourism industry also helped highlight the need to develop other industries locally.

Both Sharif-Safadi and Saadi note the centrality of Nazareth. Developments in the city will not be limited to its borders. The city “is the center of the Arab sector,” says Sharif-Safadi. Saadi, in turn, has dubbed Nazareth “the capital of Galilee” and explains that it is at the center of the hundreds of thousands of people who live in the surrounding villages. “It is not a municipal park, it is a regional park,” he said.

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