Israeli, 42 years

Manager of a joint Israeli-Palestinian company

“I spent many years studying finance and law, and was always looking for ways for Israel to contribute to the region. Israel has a huge role to play in improving the world’s challenges. The Israeli economy is very well developed: it is a start-up hub. My partner is Arab, from the north of Israel, and she came to view nutrition as a cultural thing. There is a huge obesity and diabetes crisis within the Arab population. We decided to make use of technology to try and improve people’s health.

We started off in the Arab areas of Israel. Afterwards, we relocated to the West Bank. We have two offices there, with nine employees in total. The office in the West Bank gives us easier access to the Palestinian market than working from Israel would. Now, hundreds of Palestinians come to the weekly meetings to learn about healthy food and lifestyle. We also created an app that helps people live healthy and maintain a healthy weight.

The desire to feel comfortable in your body is universal. We tend to think: ‘These people don’t wear bikinis, they probably don’t care’. When I walk around Nablus, the large Palestinian city on the West Bank where we have an office, I see so little resemblance to my own life in Tel Aviv. But peoples desires are the same. The desire to feel good when you look in the mirror is universal.

Politically, I am moderate, but my political views are not important to my work. It is business. Although, if I had been far right I probably would not have taken this path. I have been active in groups with Palestinian and Israeli business people who have worked together for a long time. I believe that in order to create stability, there needs to be economic development. My Jewish identity is an important part of my life and I want my children to grow up around safe and peaceful borders. For that reason, development and stability is necessary in the West Bank.

We would love to do more training on nutrition and mentoring of our coaches and employees in the West Bank than we currently do, but it is hard. On the one hand, there is eagerness among my team to work hard and improve but the cultural norms are different: hierarchy is very important there. They always see you as ‘the boss’. On the other hand, there is a strong anti-normalisation trend. Palestinians who work with Israelis are considered traitors by many. That makes it challenging for Israelis to cooperate with them openly and consistently.

It is manageable for us, because my partner is Arab. She can connect with people through language and can move around easily in the West Bank. As for me, many of them see me as an international, since I grew up overseas. They do not see me as an Israeli. This also means I do not feel a mental block towards Arabs or spending time in the West bank, as I might if I were a Jew who grew up in Israel and went to school here. I only arrived within the last 10 years.

I have friends from Israel who would never dare to cross to the other side. They are very curious, though. ‘ Could I also go there?’ , they want to know. ‘ Would it be safe?’ Being in Nablus makes you realize we live so close to each other, but at the same time so far apart. It is like another world.”