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

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Israeli troops on a tank near the Israel-Gaza Border. Getty Images

On Saturday, Dvir Ben-Aroya woke up expecting to go on his regular morning run. He was instead greeted with loud alarms and missiles flying above 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 going on,” he recalled — but as time passed, social media and texts from friends began to fill him in. Hamas terrorists had launched a series of attacks that morning near the Israel/Gaza border. They killed civilians and took hostages. Israel began its siege on Gaza Sunday after declaring war. It cut off Gaza’s access to fuel, power, water, and food. According to the Israeli Embassy, Washington, the death toll in Gaza and West Bank is close to 850. 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 of his 35 full-time, Israel-based employees joined the call. Ben-Aroya listened to the stories and decided that everyone would work from home in the near future. He also said the company would help anyone who wanted to leave Israel with their families. He told CNBC that at least 10% of his employees took him up on the offer and he expects more to do so over the next few weeks. According to Israel Innovation Authority, Israel’s tech sector accounts for almost one-fifth the nation’s gross domestic product. It is the most important economic sector in the country. About 10% of all workers are in the tech sector. Ben-Aroya, and other members of Israel’s technology community CNBC interviewed, said that even during wartime, Israel’s tech sector still finds a way forward. Israeli troops stand guard near the Supernova Desert Music Festival after Israeli forces secured 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 put the project on hold — but only for a week’s time. Amitai Ratzon is the CEO of cybersecurity company Pentera. He said that Saturday started with “uncertainty” and “lots of confusion.” But when his company held its all-hands meetings on Monday with 350 attendees he remembered some Israeli workers who saw work as a good distractor. For those who are feeling the opposite, Pentera allows them to take as much time off as they need.

Pentera is based in 20 countries with the majority of its employees located in Israel. It specializes on simulating cyberattacks to find weaknesses within systems for clients like BNP Paribas and Chanel. Ratzon has said that he had to restructure international commitments due to the conflict. He cancelled the training session for which some employees were traveling to Israel, asked someone to cover his keynote address in Monaco and had German and U.K. teams fly to Dubai for a conference to which Israel-based staff had planned to attend. “Everyone covers for each other,” Ratzon said to CNBC. A large number of tech workers has already been called up for military reserve duty – a mobilization which so far includes about 360,000 Israelis. Ratzon stated that Pentera currently has over 20 of its top employees serving in the military, with “some of them at the frontlines.”

Isaac Hecker, CEO at Trullion in Tel Aviv and an accounting automation company, told CNBC the finance leader of his Tel Aviv-based startup had just completed a financial forecast for 2024. He then delivered new bulletproof vests to his Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) unit, after raising $50,000 for them. He was surprised that people were constantly offering to cover each other’s tasks in an employee WhatsApp group.

“This guy claims he’s been drafted. All of a suddenly, three people jump in to cover his task,” Bar Dea stated. “Everything is going forward, it’s business as usual.” Today we had a few meetings about new launches. “Everyone is moving forward and covering each other.” Bar Dea stated that

One zero is developing a ChatGPT chatbot to provide customer service. This week, employees chose to attend optional planning meetings, but decided to not move deadlines. Bar Dea reported that the Air Force pilot leading ChatGPT’s efforts chose to participate in conference calls while wearing his uniform, in between his duties. “Many, many tech community members have been called up for reserve duty,” Yaniv Sadka told CNBC. He added that a large number of tech community members were called to serve Israel’s intelligence unit as their reserve duty. Sadka told CNBC that he would have attended two funerals by the evening. Bar Dea said that some members of Israel’s technology community are working around the clock to develop tech tools for the conflict. These include a bulletin-board-type website to help find missing people, cyberattack defence tools, GoFundMe like tools and even a tool to locate online psychologists. All high-tech firms. “People are building cyber stuff and communication stuff… to help civilians… websites to locate hostages.” Sadka stated that he has “never witnessed anything like” what is happening now in terms of mass donations and volunteerism. “It’s thousands, thousands and thousands of people helping each other,” Sadka said. He said that everyone, from teenagers to seniors, was helping. Bar Dea said that five minutes before his call with CNBC he had heard sirens from his office and his wife took his children inside to shelter. Bar Dea added, “It is very difficult to be the CEO for a high-tech or bank company while also being the father of two children aged six and 10 years old.” This is something we have never done before. “Everyone is trying to figure out how to handle it, both from a professional and personal perspective.”

Sadka said, “It is very difficult to focus on work while you are dealing with personal issues and securing your country and yourself.” “

More CNBC’s coverage of the Israel/Hamas War