Israel is known, and rightly so, as the Start Up Nation. Bursting with innovative high tech companies operating at the cutting edge (see yesterday’s piece on mobile search development by Tel Aviv-based company Quixey), Israel has become the place for multinational technology companies to go when they want to expand and improve.
Just a couple of weeks ago Apple bought the Israeli camera-technology company LinX in a deal reported to be worth $20m. The technology is so advanced it will open the way to features such as 3D object modelling and face recognition.
This acquisition deepens Apple’s position in Israel and in February, during a visit to Israel, Apple’s Chief Executive Tim Cook confirmed that Israel is Apple’s largest research and development hub outside of the US.
This type of investment has undoubtedly contributed to the rise of affluence in Tel Aviv, Herzliya and other areas in central Israel. Many visitors to Israel will see this most superficially in the glistening sky scrapers that dot the Tel Aviv skyline and the international chains of shops that now pepper Israeli malls and streets. And this is amazing. Anyone who remembers visiting Israel in the 1980’s can only marvel – and be extremely proud – at the transformation of our beloved Israel.
It is easy to become complacent and assume that Israel has — to use an English phrase – “made it”. But one area of Israel that has not “made it” – and still needs a great deal of work and investment – is the Galil in the north.
As well as being an area of outstanding natural beauty, the Galil is also of immense strategic importance, sitting on the northern border with Lebanon. It has a population of 1.2 million people, with nearly equal numbers of Jewish and Arab Israelis.
Alarmingly, it is also one of Israel’s poorest areas. 45% of children live below the poverty line and average earnings are the lowest in Israel – just 70% of the national average. By all sorts of other measures – such as levels of infant mortality and high school matriculation, – if you are born in the Galil, your life chances are far worse than if you are born in the centre of Israel.
When employment and opportunity is scarce, transport links poor and more on offer elsewhere, the inevitable “brain drain” takes hold. Young people looking to succeed take themselves and their potential south, to the bright lights of Tel Aviv and elsewhere in the centre. If this were to continue it would be a disaster for Israel.
The population of the Galil want to stay in their towns and cities, and make futures for themselves and their families there. But they can only do this if they have the educational facilities they deserve – ones that are on par with the rest of the country – and the training and jobs that will help them provide for their future.
Often the people who live in the Galil are imbued with a true pioneer spirit, reminiscent of Israel’s founding fathers. On a recent trip to Maalot, I spent some time with an Israeli who has invested money in the region and runs a large hotel. He proudly told me that his life “was the Galil” and that his children and grandchildren deserved the same opportunities as citizens who live in large urban areas.
On Thursday we waved our blue and white flags with pride for Yom Ha’atzmaut. By all means, we should take much “nachas” from what Israel has achieved. But please remember that not every part of Israel has “made it” – and the parts that have not, need our help, now more than ever. This stunning part of the Jewish homeland and all the people who live there deserve our help.
Don’t be blinded by the bright lights.
To find out more about UJIA’s work in the Galil and how you can help please click here.