Erel Margalit
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Tech warriors in the battle for Israel’s future

Stepping into the enormous vacuum left by the government, the tech sector has taken the lead in responding to this crisis
Erel Margalit meeting with children evacuated from northern communities at his Margalit Startup City in Tel Aviv. (Ran Kushnir)

On October 7th, Israel experienced one of the most heinous terrorist attacks in modern memory. A brutal Hamas massacre that targeted communities in the southern regions of Israel, bordering the Gaza Strip, killing over 1,200 people, the vast majority of them civilians, and taking at least 240 hostages including a 9-month-old baby, 80-year-olds, children, men, women, and young adults who participated in an hope-filled music festival in the desert. We are still burying our dead, and Israel is still naming victims whose bodies were so badly abused that it has taken weeks to identify them. Every day, we discover incredible demonstrations of courage by men, women, children and grandparents, who lost their lives trying to save the lives of their friends and loved ones.

Recently, I wrote about the Israeli tech ecosystem’s battle for Israel’s democracy. Today, the tech community and Israel are facing yet another struggle – a grave existential crisis that has tested the nation’s resolve, spirit, and very passion for life, like never before. The aftermath of Hamas’s brutal onslaught is leaving deep scars; it has also underscored Israel’s indomitable spirit. The same spirit that built our startup nation has reignited our vigorous survival instinct that overcame decades of war, terror attacks, and conflict.

Let us remember the times when the high-tech in Israel began to thrive. During the tumultuous crucible of the Second Intifada, an era of relentless violence in 2000-2004, especially in Jerusalem, when suicide bombers were blowing up buses and restaurants, and when you couldn’t send your kids to school because you didn’t know where they would be attacked, we built JVP and many other companies in Jerusalem. During this time, Israel’s high-tech ecosystem first emerged as the vaunted sector it is today. In some of the darkest hours of the nation’s history, innovation and entrepreneurship flourished, exemplifying Israel’s capacity to adapt and thrive. Founders understood that innovation and technology were vital lifelines in a stormy sea. In the midst of chaos, our own JVP rapidly evolved into a global venture capital powerhouse, nurturing startups that now stand at the vanguard of their respective domains.

In July this year, following months of internal turmoil over the government’s efforts to remake the judiciary, I wrote that we in the Israeli tech community “refuse to let our hard-fought freedoms be undermined by a government seeking to consolidate power and erode the principles that have made Israel a beacon of democracy in the region.”

Today, it is not just Israeli democracy facing an existential threat, but Israel itself. Today, beyond the danger to democracy, Israel is facing its most crucial and pressing existential threat. The attack by terrorist organizations is on the very existence of Israel.

The Israeli spirit that produced the startup nation is now out there defending our country from the Islamist terror twin to ISIS and Al Qaeda, right on our border in southern Israel, backed by Iran and with the stated aim of exterminating Israel.

Our tech ecosystem’s resilience has not just been about surviving adversity; it’s a wellspring of inspiration and a testament to the problem-solving ethos embedded in the Israeli DNA, where challenges are seen as opportunities to invent, create, and overcome. The tech sector has played a pivotal role in fostering collaboration and partnerships with global tech and business ecosystems, internally among Arab-Israeli and Palestinian communities, and in the wider Arab world.

Today, in the wake of the devastating October 7th massacre, the tech sector has once again taken the lead in supporting afflicted companies and employees while extending aid to the thousands of families upended by loss and displacement. From donation drives for families evacuated from the southern communities near the Gaza Strip to funding campaigns for protective equipment, volunteer programs that support fellow citizens and soldiers in need, and AI initiatives to help find the hostages held by the terror group, Israeli civilians and the tech sector have been at the forefront of the country’s response to the crises.

Together with Israeli civil society and driven forward by the very movements that were created to fight for Israeli democracy, Israel’s tech leaders and others have stepped in where the government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his hardline coalition has left an enormous leadership vacuum.

In the darkest hours, people from across Israel’s diverse communities have rallied together – in business suits and military uniforms, in startups, universities, and volunteer organizations – to safeguard our deep societal bonds cultivated over time, echoing the pro-democracy movement’s dedication to democratic values.

The crisis serves as a stark reminder of the imperative to safeguard these principles. And I’m proud that our tech community is leading the way in doing that. In this time of uncertainty, our startup nation will tap into its deep well of innovation and determination to confront an evil we refused to recognize still existed so close to us and emerge triumphant to ensure our collective future here.

We are going to defend everything we have built here in the face of ferocious adversity. We will build the new frontier in the South, near the Gaza border, and in the Galilee in the North, near the Lebanese border, in a way that will define this victory beyond the battlefield. Israel’s southern and northern communities will be rebuilt, and we will embark on partnerships that will invest in entrepreneurship, job creation, and economic development that promise a brighter future for Israel and its people, and for all people of the region.

As we face these formidable trials, we stand resolute, fortified by the spirit of freedom, democracy, security, determination and regional cooperation on both an economic and security level that has always defined us and will continue to define our way forward.

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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