The organizers of Start-Up Weekend 2011, which ran from Wednesday to Friday of last week, did not hope only to see new companies emerge; they hoped to forge bonds between Israeli and Palestinian professionals.
The event, at Jaffa’s Peres Center for Peace, drew 125 programmers, user experience experts, graphic artists, businessmen and investors. They included 111 Israelis, but only 14 Palestinians, from places including Jenin, Nablus and Ramallah.
The organizers had hoped for greater Palestinian participation, but Israeli security forces prevented some West Bank residents from attending.
While most of the attendees appeared to be secular there were a number of religiously observant individuals as well.
The concept behind the event is simple: Entrepreneurs gather for an event-filled few days of work and networking. Last week’s was the fourth Start-Up Weekend to be held in Israel, and the second at the Peres Center.
The goal was not just to form start-up companies that could draw investors, but for tech people on either side of the national divide to meet, said organizers Adi Reznik, Yaniv Feldman and Moran Bar. If the participants stay in touch afterward, that’s great, but the primary goal was just to become acquainted and break down stereotypes, they said.
At the start of the event, every would-be entrepreneur got on the stage in turn and pitched their idea, in English, for 90 seconds, including specifying the professionals needed to realize the idea. Participants then voted on the best several dozen ideas and split into working groups.
For 54 hours – from morning to night on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday – the groups worked on dozens of ideas, before voting on the best ones. Online information-sharing platform CorkIt, developed by a group of Palestinians, came in third. Second was FunQ.It, which offers users a private platform for saving media such as videos and music. In first place was PicSeek, which lets users commission photos from people anywhere in the world.
“We believe that in high-tech, as in other fields, both sides can benefit from cooperation,” said Yoav Stern, director of the Business and Economics Department at the Peres Center. “It’s particularly true in Israel, a high-tech stronghold, and the high-tech industry could be a significant growth engine for the Palestinian economy. As far as we’re concerned, it would be enough that the 14 Palestinians meet Jewish entrepreneurs and that they hold similar events in their hometowns.”
Reznick said that at this kind of event, Palestinians and Israelis could meet each other naturally. “We don’t say to someone, ‘Hi, you’re a Palestinian, go work with an Israeli.’ It works differently: You’re a programmer, they’re a group that needs a programmer, so why don’t you join them, regardless of your race or gender?”
Another goal of the event is to teach participants how to form a start-up, said Reznick.
In the future, they’re hoping to expand and draw in other groups, such as older programmers, he said.
In effort to strengthen relations with Indian expats, ambassador announces cricket tournament just like one in Israeli movie. ‘There is nothing quite like a game of cricket to bring people together,’ says embassy spokesman
Israeli movie “Turn Left at the End of the World” focused on the absorption process of an Indian family in an olim village in the Negev at the end of the 1960s, and their love of cricket – culminating in a match between the “home” team and British visitors.
Now, in an effort to to strengthen ties between Israel and India, the Indian government has announced it will be holding a special cricket tournament in Israel.
The tournament will be held at the beginning of March in one of three southern cities – Dimona, Beersheba or Ashdod. Plans for the tournament were announced by Indian Ambassador Navtej Singh Sarna during a reception held at his residence in Herzliya-Pituach to mark 62 years of Indian independence.
Hundreds of Israeli-Indian expats and Indian businessmen who are active in Israel’s business community took part in the event which opened with the hoisting of the Indian flag.
The ambassador announced that the India Cup – the cricket tournament – will be held to benefit the Indian expat community in Israel – a community of 70,000, most of whom are fans of India’s national sport, cricket.
Direcotr-General of the Israeli Cricket Association Naor Gudker said that there are many cricket fans in Israel, mostly Indian expats. According to Gudker, they follow the cricket league in India via satellite. “I think the India Cup tournament will really bring the Israeli and Indian people closer. The response will be much better than that of most of the Indian film and culture festivals held in Israel.”
Yosef Eliyahu, 72, an Indian expat and cricket fan said that most Indian expats in Israel are traditional but that doesn’t stop them from playing cricket on Shabbat. “We have tried to think of creative ways to get closer to the expat community in Israel and there is nothing quite like a game of cricket to bring people together,” said embassy spokesman Sujit Ghosh. According to Ghosh, the tournament is set to become an annual event.