You probably don’t know Saady Lozon. He is one of those faceless people in Gaza who make up the 1.816 million people living in the 360 km² (139 square miles) area commonly known as the Gaza Strip. But to me he is the CEO of Unit One ICT, a Palestinian company established in 2005 as an information and communications company, funded locally by Palestinian entrepreneurs. The firm specializes in developing software for training people to create software, web and mobile solutions while also providing information technology consultancy services.
We were introduced during the summer of 2013 when our firm won a bid to work with PITA, the Palestinian Information Technology Association to assist software developers there to meet potential clients in the U.S. who might be interested in outsourcing some of their development work to Palestinian companies. Working with a colleague in the U.S. we arranged appointments for 14 of these companies with potential clients in New York, Philadelphia and Northern New Jersey in November of last year. Sadly, Saady and three other companies situated in Gaza were not able to make the trip as they could not leave Gaza to fly to the U.S., neither through Egypt nor through Israel. It was, for them, truly a lost commercial opportunity.
During this past month’s defensive operations in Gaza by Israel, Saady and I have been in occasional contact. We never discuss politics. What we have discussed is how the business communities in both Israel and Gaza are continuing to function in spite of what is going on all around us. To be sure Gaza’s infrastructure is suffering more during the current hostilities than is the infrastructure in Israel (thank the Lord for Iron Dome). But what is truly amazing in both locations is the resiliency of the people in the face of daily threats to their survival. We knew this was the case in Israel but to see examples of that in Gaza as well was a revelation.
In Israel, people continued to go about their business, meetings were held, foreign companies continued to buy Israeli firms, the shekel remained strong and the economy held together, although incoming tourism is feeling the brunt of the war. And, of course, retail business in the south of the country was basically at a standstill all month. Amazingly, in the midst of all that was going on here, an Israeli company, Mobileye, had an IPO in New York this past week and raised almost $900 million, the largest IPO of an Israeli company in history.
In Gaza, of course, it is another story with local estimates saying that at least $6 billion will be needed to rebuild what has been destroyed during this last month of fighting. But even there, in the Hanady Tower of Gaza City where Saady has his offices, a dedicated team of programmers continues their work in the hope that at some point calm will return and the company will be able to attract overseas clients. Sadly, you will not see that story in any newspaper or on any television channel.
Yet, it is the story of Saady Lozon and his people at Unit One that gives us all hope. It is his entrepreneurial spirit that makes those of us living in Israel believe that one day, someday, some time, now or in the future, cooler heads will prevail and the likes of Saady Lozon will blaze a trail of progress that others will follow.
That cannot come too soon, for the benefit of all of us. Because we human beings are, by nature, optimists, we continue to have hope tempered, of course, by reality. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lost infinite hope.” Saady and his ilk are the keys to the realization of a better day for all of us who live in this region and are committed to remaining here.