As the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians rages on, a small company is presenting a model for peace and productivity. Global Hosted Operating System or G.ho.st is one of the few companies that is a partnership between Israelis and Palestinians. But running the West Bank company is tricky. Imagine being the CEO of a successful company and not being able to visit the headquarters even though its just 10 miles away. That’s the story for CEO Zvi Schreiber who lives on the Israeli side of the West Bank in Modiin but is prohibited by his country from crossing over into Palestine. The 35 software developers who work in Ramallah can enter Israel only if they can get permits from the army and cross through the wall and numerous checkpoints. When they need to meet they video conference or rendezvous in a forest near Jerusalem or in a rundown coffee shop on a desert road frequented by camels and Bedouin shepherds near Jericho, which is open to both. It is a determined workforce.
The founders of G.ho.st, Israeli Zvi Schrieber and Palestinian Murad Tahboub, are creating a free, web-based virtual computer that lets people access their desktop and files from any computer with an internet connection. The software is getting lots of attention in the computer world. Along the way they have carved out a model of cooperation that is combining business with peacemaking and is also helping boost the job picture for Palestinians. It’s good for business. Salaries for Palestinian engineers are about a third the prevailing rate that they are in Israel and Palestinian unemployment is 21%. It’s a win-win for everyone. But the cross border company with a headquarters in Palestine and an office in Israel is unprecedented. The scenario has been working for two and a half years although it was difficult to work together during the recent fighting in Gaza. Everyone had to struggle hard to stay on task while they scrambled about worried for family and friends and even attending funerals for the fallen.
Now the would be adversaries are suiting up for a conflict with an enemy far from the Middle East. The scrappy little G.ho.st is fighting a trademark fight over it’s phrase “no walls” with software giant, Microsoft. But Israelis and Palestinians are on the same side in the upcoming battle. Besides merging technological and commercial ambitions with social ones, G.ho.st also has a philanthropic foundation that is establishing community computer centers in Ramallah and mixed Jewish-Arab towns in Israel. The foundation is headed by Yitzhak Rabin’s daughter, Noa Rothman, who hails G.ho.st for getting things done on a people to people level and is impressed by how easily folks get along. Israelis and Palestinians are on the same team with equity and a stake in the company. Politics is taking a back seat to business and the employees have found a solution across cultures and two sides of a tough conflict. A few other high tech companies are starting to follow the example. Ghosts go through walls. Could this be a pathway to peace?
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