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Erel Margalit
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An empty north will go bankrupt: Residents and businesses should return now

With their innovation and collaboration, Galilee industries will still inspire the nation, perhaps none so effectively as the pioneering 'Galiladies'
A cable car is seen at Manara cliff above the northern city of Kiryat Shmona on August 13, 2014. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

In the heart of the Galilee, a region that has been the epicenter of innovation and resilience, a group of individuals has been tirelessly working together for nearly a decade. From the moshavim and kibbutzim, cities, towns and villages, Jewish, Arab, Druze and Circassian, this collective effort, they believe, has sparked a revolutionary change in how people perceive the Galilee and its potential for fostering entrepreneurship. This group, supported by JVP and Margalit Start-up City Galil, also happen to all be women, the “Galiladies.”

The vision of these pioneering women is clear: to inspire and guide young Israelis in the north toward a different way of life, one that values the unique opportunities the Galilee offers to the State of Israel.

Tragically, recent events have cast a dark shadow over this vision. On October 7, a sentiment of betrayal echoed throughout our entire nation. While the south bore the brunt of the death and the destruction, the North has been hit hard, and continues to be. Over 500 houses have been destroyed, tens of thousands have been evacuated from their homes, and thousands of businesses decimated.

A broken social contract

The social contract with the state, forged through years of personal and familial dedication to defending the country, had been well and truly violated. Individuals who had served to protect the nation suddenly found themselves redirected to other regions, leaving behind a deep sense of abandonment.

This complex situation has given rise to a profound unease. Is this what our ancestors, and now our children, fought and died for?  Amidst this turmoil, a wondrous sense of unity and courage has emerged amongst the population. Women, men, children, and soldiers have demonstrated extraordinary resilience in the face of unprecedented challenges. A beautiful spirit of Israel which gives all hope for the future.

Yet simultaneously, the gross negligence of the government stands in direct contradiction to the region’s spirit of positivity and solidarity.  Divisive policies and rhetoric combined by complete lack of vision has left a brave population without the necessary leadership in our darkest hour.

As the war rages on, each passing month sees the North sinking deeper into economic despair. The loss isn’t just measured in financial terms; with every passing month, we lose approximately 10 percent of the Galilee population for good, a tragic toll on both human lives and the region’s vitality. This economic devastation not only threatens the livelihoods of countless families but also undermines the very fabric of the Galilee’s resilience and innovation. In short, the thriving entrepreneurial spirit, championed by the Galiladies, now faces the very real threat of bankruptcy.

A call for a new chapter

Over the past few months, the Galiladies have been meeting via Zoom. This week, they held their first in-person gathering for the first time since the start of the war. This meeting, held at Margalit Startup City Tel Aviv, and not in the north, aimed not only to reconnect this community of entrepreneurs to each other, but to show the rest of Israel the importance of supporting the Galilee, specifically now.

Indeed, the tech industry of the north, small businesses, and communities across the nation draw inspiration from the Galilee’s ability to foster cross-community friendship, innovation, and collaborative work. The Galilee has become a source of inspiration, not just for its residents but for the entire nation.

Erel Margalit speaking to the Galiladies community at Margalit Startup City Tel Aviv, January 30, 2024. (Erez Ben Simon)

As the Galilee community faces the challenges of today, the call for a new chapter in Israel’s future must be heard across the country.

The need for a reevaluation of  long-held security paradigms is paramount. The traditional approach must evolve to acknowledge that terrorism cannot be accommodated but must be actively fought. Diplomacy and a strategic, carefully planned and technological approach are essential to complement the military efforts on the ground.

The economic aspect cannot be overlooked. The call for a new deal is loud and clear. Israel needs a comprehensive economic plan to rejuvenate the south and the north. The Galilee, an extraordinary region in Israel, deserves a significant economic boost coupled with encouragement for entrepreneurs.

At the same time, Israel needs to mark a return to its core values and principles.  The decision not to open up a northern front with Hezbollah demands a reevaluation of priorities. It must not be seen as a sign of weakness but a strategic decision that took into account the immediate interests and capacities of the nation.

A beacon of hope for Israel

Confronting problems in a timely manner is essential, and a united approach is necessary to tackle the multifaceted challenges facing the nation. In the midst of these challenges, the Galilee community has not wavered in its commitment to progress. That’s why we at Margalit Startup City Galil, have committed to the construction of a terminal for clean food production and the establishment of a new building for technology in the Kiryat Shmona industrial zone. These endeavors signify a determination to thrive despite the current adversities.

As the Galilee community continues its relentless efforts, the call to be heard grows stronger. It is a call for a return to normalcy, to a life that values progress over stagnation. The heroes of the Galilee are not only those on the front lines but every individual contributing to the vibrant cultural landscape of Israel. The Galilee community stands as a beacon of hope, and its activities resonate as a testament to the strength and resilience of the nation.

The Galilee’s call for a new chapter is a call for a collective effort to shape Israel’s future. It is a call to address security challenges, reinvigorate the economy, and embrace innovative leadership. The North may be facing challenges, but with the right vision and collaborative spirit, it can overcome them and usher in a new era of prosperity. The Galilee community stands ready to lead the way toward a brighter future for the entire nation.

About the Author
Erel Margalit is an Israeli high-tech investor and social entrepreneur. He is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Jerusalem-based venture capital firm Jerusalem Venture Partners, and Margalit Startup City, the international collection of thematic socio-economic hubs.
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