TechSoup meets tech minded Israelis and Palestinians
Peace in the Middle East? The news makes me think probably not in my lifetime, but today several of us at TechSoup met with a group of eight people from Israel and the Palestinian Territories as part of a delegation sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program who came to Silicon Valley to learn about high-tech enterprises. Meeting with this group of social entrepreneurs changed my mind.
They were from different cities in Palestine and Israel, and put us at ease when we admitted to not knowing as much as we would like about conditions there. Aref Khader Hanaysheh from East Jerusalem told us all about his work with web services company, iConnect in Ramallah, and also about his new cloud based document management software, called FocusTech. Catherine Goldstein from Tel Aviv told us about her free cloud based business information service, Evolita.
As TechSoup’s Director of Recycling and Reuse, I told them about our education efforts on recycling and refurbishing, and were surprised to learn that there is virtually no electronics recycling in Israel or Palestine (despite the fact they are some of the heaviest users of mobile phones and computers anywhere).
Of course everyone wanted to know about TechSoup Global’s partner program in Israel, Hakolbo (הכלבו ), which is operated in partnership with NPTech in Jerusalem, and also Guidestar Israel, which provides information or profiles about each of the 30,000 registered nonprofit organizations in Israel. None of them knew much about TechSoup Global’s work to provide software and hardware donations to NGOs and libraries everywhere, and were very interested in our mission.
While applauding the fact that TechSoup has partner NGOs in 37 countries all of them were agreed that, as part of a two-state solution that they said would happen eventually, they hoped that someday TechSoup will have an office in Palestine as well as Israel.
Later in the day, this unique group of people met with other technology nonprofits and companies (including Google). At TechSoup Global we work every day in the belief that civil society organizations — nonprofits, NGOs, charities — help create the conditions that make peace and prosperity possible. On days when we meet people like this face-to-face, we are heartened and hope that such a time is not far away.
What role do social benefit organizations play in bridging the gap between communities where you live? We would very much like to hear your thoughts about this.