Within the arid deserts of the Middle East, Israel has managed to flourish as a start up nation. Throughout the land, the ubiquity of entrepreneurship has allowed for countless companies to emerge with innovations in practically any field. There is no doubt that Israel can be at the forefront of a new technologically advanced age; however, lately, the country has sustained a decline in high-tech workers, possibly inhibiting further industrial growth.
Silicon Wadi, an ill-defined region in northern Israel, largely clustered within Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, constitutes Israel’s version of Silicon Valley. It is a place home to both long-standing corporations like Microsoft and Intel, and start-ups. Possessing the largest amount of venture capital as a share of its GDP, Israel facilitates the growth of small businesses as a matter of priority. Investors around the globe have seen potential in Israel’s innovations in agriculture, medicine, biotechnology and even cybersecurity.
However, in recent years, Israel has seen a large drop in programmers and other high-tech workers. It was reported late last year that Israel lacked 15,000 high-tech laborers. The increase in expatriates is mostly due to low salaries, high taxes on the wealthy, large living expenses and expensive education. Many of Israel’s greatest potential workers have taken refuge in America, in which the world’s most acclaimed universities are located. There have been major campaigns to augment the country’s supply of human-resources, especially within the fast-growing AI industry. While Israel has been able to boast astonishing outputs of technology, it has surely exhausted its available amounts of programmers and engineers. In the coming years, a shortage in high-tech workers could have destructive implications on Israel’s economy—a sufficient amount of workers is essential for continued industrial growth. The U.S., China and Canada have led the way with vasts investments in AI programs such as self driving cars and other robotics; Israel is looking to follow suit by first incentivizing more immigration.
Throughout the past decade, Israel has introduced new programs and legislations in order to increase its number of workers inside communications, computer-science and engineering industries. In early 2017, the government subsidized vocational high schools with more emphasis on engineering education. In a 2018 piece of legislation, Israel allowed many high-tech firms in information and communications technology to request foreign workers to join their companies for a year, giving them special visas. This replaced an existing law which gave only limited citizenship grants to incoming foreign workers. Only time will tell if these changes can adequately address Israel’s worker shortage inside Silicon Wadi.
In addition, as shown on the website for Nefesh B’Nefesh, (a company dedicated to promoting and simplifying the aliyah process) there are other big financial incentives provided by the Israeli government. The website lists countless advantages such as financial grants, rent subsidies, health coverage, discounts in income taxes, subsidized university tuition and much more. “This small Jewish country offers a springboard for professional and personal opportunities—where companies and individuals are working to solve some of the toughest problems in the world,” said Nefesh B’Nefesh Director of PR and Communications Yael Katzman. While she noted that there are several factors which can make prospective olim hesitate, “Nefesh B’Nefesh has worked hard the past 17 years to address these concerns.”
Even if such concerns can be mitigated, many young potential engineers are still pulled toward Silicon Valley, where there is a seemingly more feasible path to success; doing so does not require moving countries or learning a new language. For the most part, however, Israel is still a better option since the lack of workers in the country makes it much easier to get a job—for example, whereas maybe 100 workers in California would apply for one spot, just around 10 would apply for a similar spot in Israel. Katzman noted that Israel is “where people work hard and play hard; refer to the prime minister by his school nickname, have several friends working at a startup and love to travel.” Israel is one of the only countries which can be described as tight-knit; unlike America, Israel prides itself on its communal environment in which citizens have a unified love of the land. Israel’s laid back atmosphere, coupled with its united citizens, prioritizes innovation and genuine intellectual growth over profitability and sheer competitiveness. “The lack of pretension, the high quality of life and vibrant culture, mixed in with the Jewish spirit of the country really makes Israel a great choice,” said Katzman.
By Josh Gindi
Josh Gindi is a rising senior at Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston and is interning at The Jewish Link.