The Economy Wakes Up to Israel's Arabs

Long overlooked by employers and investors, the Arab sector is now seen by some as the next 'big thing'.

Haaretz and TheMarker take an in-depth look at the sector long overlooked by employers and investors, but which is now seen by some as the next 'big thing' in the Israeli market.

The discrimination must stopThe numbers speak for themselves: 1.5 million Arabs, Druze and Circassians make up 20% of the Israeli population, but contribute only 8% of Israel's gross domestic product.

Israel starts tapping into hidden business potential of Arab marketCorporate Israel is starting to discover the hidden business potential of Israeli Arabs - largely virgin territory to most major companies, with the noteworthy exception of the cellular service providers.

The unseen countryThere is a second country in Israel, one that all too many people prefer not to acknowledge. It's the country that contains 129 Arab towns, which make up 11 percent of all the municipalities in Israel.

'High-tech managers prefer to work with their army buddies'High-tech is famously at the forefront of Israeli industry, and it also reflects the overall situation of Israeli society: Arabs are a minority in the field.

Survey: Managers support hiring Arabs, but don't act on itWhile 86% of managers in Israeli industry think there are worthy Arab candidates for management positions, 73% admit they prefer not to employ them.

The mark of an Arab?Samar Jamil, 26, comes from Taibeh. She holds a degree in physiotherapy from Tel Aviv University and is about to start her masters' degree course at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in Be'er Sheva.

'They glanced at my resume and sent me on my way'Most of accountant Wajdi Biadsi's classmates managed to find internships at major firms while still students. But for Biadsi, from the Arab town of Baka al-Garbiyeh, the process was more difficult.

The sight of me frightens themDr. Riam Abu-Mukh, 31, from Baka al-Garbiyeh, has an impressive resume. She holds not one but two bachelor's degrees from Hebrew University and a doctorate in chemistry from Bar-Ilan University.

Twelve years spent looking for a jobBoutros Askar, a 39-year-old Christian Arab, has been unemployed in high-tech for 12 years. Askar finished his studies in computer sciences at Tel-Hai Academic College in 1996, but has never found work in the field.

3,000 Arab graduates looked for jobs: Only 170 found oneIsrael's keenness to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development presents a golden opportunity for minorities to narrow the economic gap with the Jewish population.

Going mainstream (and getting pushy)Before she began high school in the nearby village, Luna Khoury-Abed, today 29, hardly ever left her home village in northern Israel, near the Lebanese border. And she didn't speak a word of Hebrew.

Spitting blood"I spat blood trying to find work in high-tech," says Afif Abu-Much, 29, from Baka al-Garbiyeh. He found a job, ultimately, with the Israeli branch of the German software giant SAP.

A matter of mind-setRima Mariah is 23. She hails from Daliat al-Carmel, a Druze town south of Haifa. She works at a company implementing the government employment program 'Orot,' and her raison d'etre is to help people find work.

The Arab you don't know may be about to change the marketPitango venture capital's co-manager, Nechemia Peres, credits Israel's rapid economic growth over the last two decades to Russian immigration, but says to look for the next breakthrough 'in the Arab population.'

The telecom revolution has bypassed the villagesThe Galilee village of Khawalid, population 500, won government recognition as a Bedouin village 15 years ago, but its residents are still awaiting recognition - and service - from the phone company.