When our 14-year-old son Ari described a classmate who spends his time with computer games and science fiction stories as a “nerd,” my wife admonished him. “Don’t belittle the ‘nerds’,” she said. “Right now they might not be the center of your class’s social circle, but tomorrow they will probably be the leaders and trailblazers. One of these days you could be going to the office of your friend the nerd to ask him for a job… “
While in the USA recently, I was reminded very strongly of my wife’s life lesson when I met my friend, whom I shall call “Mark.” Mark is a Christian Afro-American who was born in a small town to a family of limited means. Against all odds, Mark founded and built from scratch a business empire that is now considered to be one of the best places in the States to work.
Mark is an enthusiastic supporter of Israel and the Jewish people. His support is based on more than the theological considerations that underpin it and on more than his gratitude to the Jewish people who stood alongside Blacks in the Civil Rights Movement in the middle of the previous century. Mark has a deeply personal story to tell.
Leaning back in the executive chair in the conference room at his headquarters, his eyes sparkling with remembered passion, Mark told me his connection to the Jewish people went back to his youth. “Where I grew up, there were only a few Blacks and a few Jews. We lived on the fringes. We were the ‘uncool kids’, the ones who didn’t get invited to parties. The ones who were discriminated against and disadvantaged. We had to work harder than the others in the class to get on in life, to get recognition. That’s how the ‘alliance of the isolated’ was formed. And look how far we’ve come! Today some of us are running huge companies, or heading social organizations – we’re courted by everyone. We’ve come a long way economically and socially, but we’ve never forgotten where we came from and who stood alongside us back then.”
As I listened to Mark I thought of Galil Software (www.galilsoftware.com), where I spoke about Principle Based Negotiation. Galil Software is a groundbreaking high-tech company located in Nazareth. It employs about 150 people with academic degrees, most of whom are Arab. At Galil Software, Arab engineers are the majority, not the minority. There they have the opportunity to climb onto the industrial locomotive of Israel’s advanced high-tech industry and proudly share in its fruits, both economic and social.
This is no small thing. Overcoming cultural barriers within the Arab sector, the difficulty of joining security-related projects, and the preconceived notions of some Jewish employers, are just a few of the obstacles that Arabs wanting to become part of the high-tech industry must surmount. Galil Software, which was established only a few years ago, broke new ground and proved it is possible – and even advantageous – to employ Arabs in the Israeli high-tech industry. This young organization has now become a role model for other companies.
We are about to celebrate the holiday of Shavu’ot. On Shavu’ot we read the Book of Ruth, which lauds the respectful attitude, sensitivity, and compassion shown by Boaz, of the Tribe of Judah, towards Ruth, the widowed and marginalized convert of the Tribe of Moab. The commitment of Ruth the Moabite towards the Jewish people has become the exemplar of the commitment of the convert to the Jewish people and to the God of Israel. Whoever connects the historical thread between the Book of Ruth of more than 3,000 years ago to Israel of today will discover that the care and compassion of the majority for the minority engenders fidelity, commitment, and solidarity.
The union of Ruth and Boaz laid the foundations for the House of David, their great-grandson, the very King David from whom the Mashiah will be descended. If we dare to consider this as a historical precedent, can we perhaps bring about a metaphoric Coming of the Mashiah by cooperation between the majority and minority in Israel?
Sagi Melamed lives with his family in the community of Hoshaya in the Galilee. He serves as Vice President of External Affairs at the Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, and as Chief Instructor of the Hoshaya Karate Club. Sagi received his Masters degree from Harvard University in Middle Eastern Studies with a specialty in Conflict Resolution. His book “Son of My Land” was published in 2013. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.