February 10, 2011 - 1:00am

Israeli President Shimon Peres Wednesday inaugurated a 50-million-U.S.-dollar initiative to increase the numbers of Israeli-Arabs in the hi-tech workforce, called Maantech.

The term "Maan" in Arabic mean "together," and in this case, that means backing by the government and two dozens leading Israeli and international firms, among them are Microsoft, IBM, Intel, Amdocs, Checkpoint, and Oracle.

The Israeli government is footing 20 million dollars of the sum, with the remainder coming from private sources.

Officials say the comprehensive recruitment and training program will offer suitable candidates help and coach throughout the stages of the job search, and after they enter the field, as well.

Peres told the group of industry and employment service leaders gathered in Tel Aviv to launch the recruitment website, that Israel has a wealth of untapped hi-tech talent.

"It is a blessing to the Israeli economy that, instead of bringing in foreign workers, we have the people of Israel," he said of the plan.

Maantech is meant to aid the development of a hi-tech sector that includes more of the 1.5 million Arabs who make up more than 20 percent of Israel's 7.5 million citizens.

However, while laws and plans to better fit the Arab sector into the economy already exist, they aren't always put into practice.

But Peres, a longtime cheerleader for Israel's hi-tech and bio- tech industrial prowess, is optimistic.

"The spirit of the matter is to give, the spirit of the matter is to aid, the spirit of the matter is to let society profit and not just the corporations," he suggested.

Said Bakri, who is a computer science student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was a guest representing the Arab students the program is looking for, said he believed that "Jews and Arabs can, together, advance Israel's interests, especially in the hi- tech field."

Israeli-Arabs candidates, Bakri believes, should make every possible effort to fulfill their goals of building a career in hi- tech.

"I say to the Arab sector, give it your best shot and don't give up. If you believe in yourselves, you can make it happen," Bakri concluded, adding "I call on other companies to join this initiative."


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