REUTERS - Mellanox Technologies is looking to take advantage of a resource largely untapped by Israel’s high-tech companies: Palestinians. Yokne’am-based Mellanox already employs a large number of Arab programmers in Israel and dozens in Ramallah and Nablus, in the West Bank. Now its chief executive is extending the outreach to the Gaza Strip.
Working with ASAL Technologies, a Palestinian software firm, Nasdaq-traded Mellanox, which makes products that connect databases, servers and computers, has hired four programmers in Gaza. It hopes to add at least six more in the next six months. “From our experience in Ramallah, we think we have the potential to collaborate and make our neighbors successful,” Chief Executive Officer Eyal Waldman told Reuters in an interview.
Hiring Palestinians would seem to solve two problems. Arabs struggle to break into Israel’s high-tech sector. And the Israeli companies need personnel. Among Palestinians, there were 11,000 registered engineers from all sectors in Gaza at the end of 2015 and 16,000 in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to Gaza’s Engineering Association. A senior programmer in Gaza estimated that about 5,000 people from the Strip work in software. But a study among 1,061 new engineering graduates in Gaza showed an unemployment rate of 36%.
Meanwhile, Israeli companies have begun to outsource work to other countries, such as India. But Palestinians have the same skills, Waldman said, and they are in the same time zone. Mellanox already stands out for having a workforce in Israel that’s almost 10% Arab. It also employs 68 people in the West Bank as part of a joint project with ASAL that has been up and running for four years.