A new high-tech preparatory program will be launched later this year for high school graduates from Israel’s Arab society, to guide and help participants continue their higher education and careers in high-tech. The program is led by Tsofen and will start this coming fall.

Tsofen is a non-profit organization that was founded by Jewish and Arab high-tech professionals and economists in 2008. They founded the organization with the hopes to develop the high-tech sectors in the Arab community as an economic lever and catalyst for a shared society within Israel. They bridge stakeholders from Arab municipalities, Arab students and graduates, the Israeli government, and the high-tech industry to promote the establishment of high-tech hubs in Arab towns and integrate Arab engineers into high-tech firms. Since its inception, the number of Arab engineers in the Israeli high-tech industry grew by 3 percent, for in 2008, Arab engineers accounted for 0.5% of employees in high-tech (350 people), whereas today they account for 3.5% (about 5000 people). Tsofen’s goal is to increase this percentage to at least 10% by 2025.

The recent conference put on by Tsofen was aimed at promoting high-tech, training, and employment opportunities in the northern Arab city of Umm al-Fahm. The conference was divided into sessions on various topics with participants from the industry, employers, representatives of local authorities and the Knesset, representatives from government ministries, as well as entrepreneurs, businessmen, and school administrators. The conference held multiple panels: an industry panel on integrating Arab engineers into high-tech, a panel on human capital, and a panel on government decisions and support for promoting business growth in the Arab world. Among the participants and speakers of such panels were Prof. Ziyad Hanna, CEO of Cadence in Israel; Ravital Duek, co-CEO of Tsofen; Hassan Tawafra, head of the Economic Development Authority of Arab Society; Director of Economic Development and Employment at The Ministry for the development of The Periphery, The Negev, and The Galilee; Dr. Samir Mahamid, Mayor of Umm al-Fahm, as well as other senior figures from the high-tech industry and Arab society. The conference was moderated by Safaa Eek from Google and Hans Mahana from EY. Moreover, during the conference, the “Masar for High-Tech” initiative was announced, which, led by Tsofen in collaboration with the Rothschild Partnerships Association, Ministry of Peripheral, Negev and Galilee Development, the Umm al-Fahm Municipality, is a new high-tech preparatory program for high school graduates from the Arab society within Israel.

Masar is the Arabic word for ‘path’. The program is aimed to support young people towards their higher education success and integration into employment. It will open opportunities for young people as well as serve the regional economy and the need for skilled manpower in technology industries throughout the country. As Anat Nehemia Lavie said, "Masar was first established in 2018 as a social start-up and presented a revolutionary idea for the Arab society - a program in the format of a gap year, which will address barriers and needs young men and women in Arab society face in academia and the labour market. It will form an educational-social framework at a critical stage in their lives, where they stand at a challenging crossroads in planning their future."

On top of the “Masar for High-Tech” initiative, the establishment of a new tech hub within Umm al-Fahm was also announced. The tech hub will raise awareness and promote the issue pertaining to Arabs in the high-tech sector, as well as devote a large employment area to tech entrepreneurs. As the mayor of Umm al-Fahm, Dr. Samir Mahamid proclaimed, “We see innovation and high-tech as an economic, employment, and image leverage; a lever that will give our young people a future and potential for self-realization. I believe that the partnership of the government, the third sector, the municipality, and the city, is the right recipe for realizing the potential of Arab society.” The conference, along with the initiatives it announced, will act as a starting point for a better future for Israeli Arabs.