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How Israel’s tech community is responding to the Israel-Hamas war

Israeli soldiers on a tank are seen near the Israel-Gaza border. 

Ilia Yefimovich | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

On Saturday, Dvir Ben-Aroya woke up expecting to go on his regular morning run. Instead, he was met with blaring alarms and missiles flying over Tel Aviv. 

Ben-Aroya, co-founder of Spike, a workplace collaboration platform with clients including Fiverr, Snowflake, Spotify and Wix, was confused for over an hour — “No one really knew what was happening,” he recalled — but as time passed, social media and texts from friends began to fill him in. 

That morning, Hamas, the Palestinian militant organization, had carried out terrorist attacks near the Israel-Gaza border, killing civilians and taking hostages. On Sunday, Israel declared war and started implementing a siege of Gaza, cutting off access to power, food, water and fuel. So far, greater than 1,000 Israelis have been killed, in accordance with the Israeli Embassy in Washington; in Gaza and the West Bank the death toll is nearing 850, in accordance with two health ministries within the region. 

Follow our live coverage of the Israel-Hamas war.

At 3 p.m. local time Saturday, Ben-Aroya held an all-hands meeting, and he says every one in every of his 35 full-time, Israel-based employees joined the decision. People shared their experiences, and Ben-Aroya decided everyone should make money working from home for the foreseeable future, adding that if anyone desired to move away from Israel with their family, the corporate would support them. At least 10% decided to take him up on that supply, he told CNBC, and he believes more will achieve this in the approaching weeks. 

Israel’s tech community accounts for nearly one-fifth of the country’s annual gross domestic product, making it the sector with the most important economic output within the country, in accordance with the Israel Innovation Authority. The tech sector also makes up about 10% of the overall labor force. Even during war, much of Israel’s tech community continues to be finding a method to push forward, in accordance with Ben-Aroya and a handful of other members of the tech community CNBC spoke with. 

Israeli soldiers stand guard at the positioning of the Supernova desert music Festival, after Israeli forces managed to secure areas around Re’im. 

Ilia Yefimovich | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Ben-Aroya had been planning to launch Spike’s integrated artificial intelligence tool this past Monday, and he almost immediately decided to place the project on hold — but just for every week’s time. 

For Amitai Ratzon, CEO of cybersecurity firm Pentera, Saturday began with “uncertainty and numerous confusion,” but when his company had its all-hands meeting on Monday, with 350 attendees, he recalled some Israel-based employees viewing work as an excellent distraction. For those that feel the other, the corporate is allowing them to take the day without work they need. 

Pentera operates from 20 countries, with Israel having the most important worker base, and it focuses on mimicking cyberattacks for clients resembling BNP Paribas, Chanel and Sephora to discover system weaknesses. Ratzon said he has needed to restructure some international commitments amid the conflict — canceling the training session some employees were flying into Israel for, asking someone to cover for his planned keynote address in Monaco, and having German and U.K. team members fly to a Dubai conference that Israel-based employees had been planning on attending. 

“Everyone is covering for one another,” Ratzon told CNBC. 

A substantial variety of tech employees have already been called on for military reserve duty — a mobilization that thus far totals about 360,000 Israelis. 

Ratzon said Pentera has greater than 20 of its best employees currently serving, “a few of them on the front lines.” 

Isaac Heller, CEO of Trullion, an accounting automation startup with offices in Tel Aviv, told CNBC that the corporate’s finance lead just finished its 2024 financial forecast after which immediately delivered recent bulletproof vests for his Israeli Defense Forces unit after raising greater than $50,000 to secure them.

Of digital bank One Zero’s almost 450 employees — all based in Israel — about 10% were drafted for reserve duty, CEO Gal Bar Dea told CNBC. He was surprised to see people consistently volunteering to cover for one another in an worker WhatsApp group. 

“This guy says he was drafted, abruptly three people jump in and canopy his tasks,” Bar Dea said. “There’s a way of business as usual, all the pieces is moving forward. … We had some meetings today on recent launches coming. Everyone is keeping moving and covering for one another.” 

One Zero is working on a ChatGPT-like chatbot for customer support, and this week employees opted to affix optional planning meetings and decided not to maneuver the deadlines, Bar Dea said. The person leading the ChatGPT efforts, an Air Force pilot who has been drafted, selected to affix conference calls in his military uniform in between his duties, Bar Dea said. 

“Many, many members of the tech community have been called up to order duty,” Yaniv Sadka, an investment associate at aMoon, a health tech and life sciences-focused enterprise capital firm, told CNBC, adding that a big swath of the community has been called to serve in Israel’s intelligence units as their reserve duty.  

“I may have, by tonight, already been to 2 military funerals,” Sadka said. 

Some members of Israel’s tech community are working extra time on tech tools specific to the conflict, resembling a bulletin board-type website for missing individuals, cyberattack defense tools, a GoFundMe-like tool and even a resource for locating online psychologists, in accordance with Bar Dea.

“It’s pretty amazing — it is the secret sauce of Israel … startup nation,” Bar Dea told CNBC, adding, “In two days, individuals are raising money, volunteering, taking kids in, constructing recent houses, walking deserted dogs. … All the high-tech corporations. People are constructing cyber stuff, communication stuff … stuff to assist civilians … web sites to search out hostages.” 

Sadka said that he’s “never seen anything like” the mass donations and mass volunteering happening for the time being. 

“It’s hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of individuals taking good care of one another. There are everyone from teenagers to senior residents helping,” he said. 

Five minutes before Bar Dea’s call with CNBC, he said he heard sirens blaring from his office, and that his wife had taken his kids inside their home to shelter in place. 

“It’s interesting attempting to be the CEO of a bank or high-tech company, meanwhile I’m the daddy of a 10-year-old and a 6-year-old,” Bar Dea said, adding, “It’s very tough. It’s something we have never experienced before, ever. … Everyone is attempting to get our hands around methods to take care of it from a business perspective and in addition from a private perspective.” 

Sadka added, “It’s very difficult to focus on work once you’re coping with all these personal matters and on securing yourself and the country.”

More CNBC coverage of the Israel-Hamas war

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