Good news for a change

Jewish Light Editorial

I rolled out this mornin’ the kids had the morning’ news show on

Bryant Gumbel was talkin’ ’bout the fighting in Lebanon

Some senator was squawkin’ ’bout the bad economy

It’s gonna get worse you see, we need a change in policy

…We sure could use a little good news today

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— From Anne Murray’s 1983 song “A Little Good News” 

 

When Anne Murray first released her song “A Little Good News” in 1983, it seemed as if things could not be worse in terms of the headlines: fighting in Lebanon, political grandstanding, an uncertain economy, and on and on. Fast forward to January 2016, and the shortage of good news is even more severe: ISIS-inspired terrorism in Paris, San Bernardino and Philadelphia; sexual assaults on women in Cologne, Germany, increasing ugliness and vicious rhetoric in the current presidential campaign, and of course the stabbings in Jerusalem and the near death of the quest for a two-state solution.

Yes, things are pretty bad, but a story in the Sunday edition of The New York Times by Isabel Kershner is an indication of a small silver lining amidst the darkness of recent days. The article is headlined, “All-Bedouin Tech Company Hints at Shift in Israel; An Industry Moves to Add Young Arabs.”  Kershner reports on recent actions by Sadel Tech, an Israeli company that offers expertise in internet and mobile technologies, which has been providing Bedouin Arabs in Israel training in those fields.

The above is one of a handful of encouraging stories regarding Arab-Israeli relations, and the sharing of the “Start Up Nation” innovations to lift impoverished Arabs out of poverty and ignorance of modern technologies. The Times reports that of 284,500 tech jobs in Israel, only 1.3 percent were Arab, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. The Israeli Ministry of Economy has placed 225 Bedouin Arabs at leading software companies and has set a goal to reach 1,000 Arab graduates in the high-tech work force.

The successful outreach and recruitment among the Bedouins is especially welcome, since ISIS has gained a foothold among the Bedouins in the Sinai, and tensions have increased among restive Bedouins in parts of Israel proper.

Historically Bedouins, a very ancient nomadic Arab people, have been quiescent and have cooperated with the Israeli government. Some Israeli Bedouin Arabs serve in the Israeli Defense Forces, and there have been Bedouin members of the Knesset.

If Arab populations are forced to live in poverty and ignorance of the modern world, they are not only doomed to lives without realistic hope for advancement, but are vulnerable to recruitment by groups like ISIS and al-Qaida as well as Hamas and Hezbollah.

Kershner’s encouraging story adds that Sadel Tech is “unusual in that it hires Bedouin women, whose employment opportunities are unusually limited to fields such as education.”  As an example, she notes that Rifaa Azbarga, 26, one of three women working at Sadel, received a degree in software engineering and then taught math in the Bedouin town of Keseife.  Azbarga is quoted that “everyone told me they never take Arabs into high tech.”  Now she builds websites for businesses and is developing an Android application that combines radio advertising and chat functions.

Indeed we sure could use a little good news today, and thanks to the Times, we can take note of a very positive development in Israel which will benefit Jews, Arabs and the prospects for advancement in the peace process.