Established in 1999 with headquarters in California, USA and Yoqneam, Israel; Mellanox Technologies is a company that supplies a wide range of vital Ethernet units and Network solutions such as adapters and processors, switches, cables, software, hardware and other high-performance components that speed up and enhance business results for varied markets. Mellanox are Nasdaq-listed and unlike other Israeli companies they can boast that they employ close to 10 percent Arab staff members.
As conscription into the IDF is not compulsory for Israeli Arabs, many do not enlist. This leaves them at a disadvantage as through the duration of army service, conscripts are provided with resources and relationships that give help them get ahead after their mandatory service. Mellanox has really helped these non-Jewish citizens of Israel. In addition, for the last 4 years, they have been supporting nearly 70 non-Israeli Arab workers from Judea and Samaria in a close working relationship with a Ramallah-based company called ASAL.
Even though Mellanox already employs these programmers in Israel, Judea and Samaria (Israeli Arab and non-Israeli Arab alike); they have made news recently as they have branched out and included Palestinian Authority citizens of Gaza (controlled by Hamas) to their payroll. Together with ASAL, Mellanox hired four programmers and they hope to add at least half a dozen more in the next six months.
The CEO of Mellanox, Eyal Waldman, explains that Israel’s high-tech industry was established and developed with help from US companies like IBM, Microsoft and Intel and from there went on to build their own companies. In an attempt to foster coexistence and to literally help their neighbors in a loose “pay it forward” endeavor, Waldman says, “From our experience in Ramallah, we think we have the potential to collaborate and make our neighbors successful.”
According to Gaza’s Engineering Association, there were 11,000 registered computer engineers at the end of 2015. One Gazan programmer estimated that there are about 5,000 Gazans able to work in software even though statistics show that new engineering graduates have an unemployment rate of 36 percent. While Israeli companies outsource work to other countries like India, Waldman says he would rather take advantage of the skills of close neighbors who are more than capable and have the added benefit of being in the same time zone. In his mind, this venture would solve problems of people on both sides of the border and bring people closer.
Karin Mayer Rubinstein, head of Israel Advanced Technology Industries, said that Mellanox’ CEO was a trendsetter in Israel’s high-tech industry. She said, “The more we interact, the more we strive for co-existence. I hope it will serve as an example for other companies to follow.”
While the economic cooperation between Israel and Gaza is mostly restricted to import and export of agricultural and other products; high-tech work is not restricted by geographical borders, hostility and political interference. Waldman believes the results will be worth the effort and is hoping that within a decade, Gaza will have its own booming high-tech industry.