While Israel is known as the “Start-up Nation,” the country still has its fair share of underprivileged children who have no access to computers and technology. A group of top figures in the Israeli hi-tech industry are working to change that. These executives, together with assistance from the Jewish Agency, established Appleseeds Academy in 2000. The Academy has trained close to 700,000 for jobs through 350 learning centers. The training targets underemployed groups such as ultra-Orthodox men and Bedouin women.

Appleseeds’ newest venture, led by Intel, is called “Ambassadors of High-Tech.” This program offers after-school computer classes for dozens of youths from Arab villages and Jewish towns in peripheral areas. The classes are taught by Jewish and Arab National Service volunteers who serve the state through their community work in lieu of military service.

Program Coordinator Gal Horowitz explains: “The volunteers that we work with get intense training for a week from top Intel personnel. They then go back to their home communities to lead and teach groups in basic and more advanced computer skills. It’s as much an opportunity for kids from peripheral areas to see themselves as leaders in their communities as it is for them to teach groups of children or adults, helping to foster a spirit of high-tech modernity in their towns.”

Horowitz continues: “We find that tech training, and participation in the Ambassador program, has produced some excellent results. For Arab youths living in semi-rural villages, going to Haifa and Tel Aviv in order to attend the training program is itself a real eye-opener, giving them an opportunity to see a side of Israel they never knew. The prestige that accrues from the skills that they pick up also makes them positive role models for the groups they teach, and since it’s done in the context of National Service, it encourages the relationship of Arabs to the state.

We recently did a study of the lasting results, if any, on the first group that participated three years ago. Eighty percent of the participants in the first group said that they felt like they were ‘better Israelis’ after the program, 60% are still in their hometown, and 40% still volunteer. All the participants said that the program had helped them with their self-confidence and self-image, and that they felt proud they had done something to help their communities and Israeli society.”

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