Monday, July 22, 2013

The Nazareth Code: Can Israel’s Booming Tech Sector Heal the Wounds of Israeli Arabs?

An ambitious new high-tech industrial park doubles as an initiative to bring more Arabs into the Israeli economy

By Yoav Fromer for Tablet Magazine

Tech ParkDriving through Nazareth’s industrial zone is no easy task. Congested, confusing, and somewhat chaotic, it is not very inviting to first-time visitors. But at the end of the freshly paved road lined with auto-body shops, garages, warehouses, and one oddly situated girls school, awaits a surprising sight: a new industrial park, recently built by the Israeli billionaire and philanthropist Stef Wertheimer.

Constructed to promote Arab-Jewish economic cooperation and coexistence by providing “quality employment” in export-oriented industries, the park, which formally opened in April, is also an attractive tourist destination: Towering above the biblical Jezreel valley to the south, it affords a stunning view of one of Israel’s lushest landscapes. Once you enter, it looks more like a museum than a place of business. The illuminated sunlit lobby exhibits bronze sculptures by the local Arab artist Sana Farah Bishara that suggest the work of August Rodin, while the surrounding stone walls are draped with abstract-art tapestries by the Israeli choreographer Noa Eshkol. With top-notch facilities, breathtaking views, and a work atmosphere evocative of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the park appears to have everything necessary for an ideal industrial hub—except for one thing.

There are very few people. Operating at only 30 percent occupancy, the Nazareth Industrial Park has the feel of a luxury ghost town.

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