Israel is the land of who you know. It’s more important than what you know. For many olim (people who immigrated to Israel), this presents a serious challenge. Olim didn’t grow up in Israel and therefore didn’t partake in the institutions like youth movements or the army that so often constitute the “glue” of networks in Israel. So how can olim develop strong networks to succeed both professionally and personally in Israel? Olim do not have “protekzia” (the Hebrew word for connections), so they need to build them from scratch.
When I made aliyah in 1993, there was no such thing as “Olim in Tech.” The little high-tech that existed was an old boys club full of Air Force pilots and other elites from the IDF’s Unit 81. Venture capital was just starting. A small number of us English and Russian-speaking immigrants lived on the periphery of this club. Candidly, it was almost impossible for Olim to break in.
I was super motivated to build a network. My life goal, conveyed to me by Rav Yehuda Amital, founder of Yeshivat Har Etzion, was to create 10,000 jobs in Israel. Early on, I was fortunate enough to partner with Shlomo Kalish, a former air force pilot. He was one of a number of reasons I was able to build a network. But not everyone is so lucky. Israel is both the future of the Jewish people and a key node in the future of positive global innovation. Thus, I have spent the last nearly 30 years of my career trying to establish Israel as the destination for Jews worldwide, not only as our national homeland but as the best place to earn a meaningful living, advance one’s career and contribute to a larger mission.
I co-founded Nevo Network with Abbey Onn in 2019 to empower Olim to be more successful and impactful in Israeli high-tech. Our Israel immigration survey with more than 500 respondents showed that the two most serious challenges for Olim in Israel were finding a job and building a network. Indeed, we discovered that many Olim leave Israel for their country of origin when they struggle to find their second or third job in Israel. For a country whose bedrock is social and professional networks, this was unacceptable. Olim’s lack of integration into Israel’s web of connection prevented them from enjoying career opportunities in Israel. It also prevented Israeli companies from benefiting from their talent and the country from gleaning the economic benefit of this diverse group with a global perspective.
Nevo Network is determined to change that. Among our core goals is to help Olim build their professional networks in Israel. Now in our third cohort, we have more than 80 Nevo Fellows as current participants or alumni. Each in their own way, these fellows are building community and upward mobility for Olim; connecting to native Israelis in high tech and beyond, networking, mentoring, and providing opportunities for new Olim who continue to arrive each month.
We are gaining momentum. In the last month alone, more than 200 Israelis in high-tech have signed up to provide monthly mentoring to new Olim, a service not only for Nevo fellows but the entire community of Olim in Israel. This is in addition to the tens of wonderful Israeli mentors who mentor Nevo Fellows 1:1 through the fellowship. This builds a network of networks and is the essence of Israeliness– helping others successfully integrate into the place we all call home.
This year, 45,000+ new immigrants arrived, because of the Russia-Ukraine war. These were people from Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus. In the first week of the war in late February, Nevo Fellow Daniil Chernov, Sophia Tupolev-Luz, Ariella Raviv, and Tamar Abramson started The Reboot Startup Nation, the civic movement to welcome these displaced professionals. To date, the initiative serves a community of 12,000, with at least 1,000 new immigrants who started new jobs in the Israeli tech ecosystem to date. The initiative has partners across the private, public, and non-profit sectors in job placement, events, and training programs. These efforts show that Israelis and more experienced immigrants can have a huge impact in helping newcomers integrate faster through their professional communities.
On this Yom Aliyah, I don’t want to self-congratulate and boast about the number of new Olim each year. Many have arrived fleeing war, antisemitism, or anti-Zionism. Today I want to challenge each one of us to remember our core Israelite principles of economic brotherhood and empowerment. Most importantly, these principles acknowledge the enormous power and responsibility we have as individuals and as a collective to enable the success of others. So, what can you do?
- As an individual, sign up to micro-mentor new and potential Olim through various mentorship programs.
- As a company, you can join groups like The Reboot Startup Nation on LinkedIn and post jobs for your company for new immigrants from the war to see directly. Or sign up to The Reboot to get access to a private CV database of skilled candidates, and opportunities to co-host meetups and exclusive events for Olim and displaced professionals.
- Tell Olim about Nevo and other tools helping olim
- The easiest way to make an immediate impact? Look around at your company, your gym, and your kids’ daycare and see if there are Olim. Invite them for coffee and get to know them.
Don’t underestimate the importance of networking and community for Olim. Building a network is high in the hierarchy of needs. And whether we believe it or not, each of us has the knowledge and experience to help new Olim directly or through our various groups.
My personal goal is to transform Israel into an economic beacon– the global destination to work and succeed professionally. To do that, we are committed to significantly improving the integration of Olim and global talent, but we also need your help building the economy and building the bridge for others to cross.
Nevo Fellow Max Kane said it best: “Today’s Israel offers opportunities to establish lucrative careers that are on par with, if not better than, those attainable in many of the world’s greatest cities…Americans fear that making aliyah means sacrificing the lifestyles they have become accustomed to back home. And many who do make the move allow that fear to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The aliyah and career game is not zero-sum — it’s quite literally the opposite. The joy of making aliyah is increased exponentially by the unique career opportunities Israel has to offer. Let’s make the aliyah dream of the 21st century one where people come here in order to build great careers, not in spite of them.”
Written by Michael Eisenberg, Co-founder and General Partner at Aleph, Co-founder of Nevo Network