Participants of the Hackerthon. Photo credit: May Hatib.

Hacking for Peace: The First Jewish-Arab Hackathon in Jerusalem

A new initiative by Jewish and Arab entrepreneurs in Jerusalem, to build new projects for the benefit of the city, was held by the first Jewish-Arab-Jerusalem Hackathon in Margalit Startup City near the First Station Complex.

“People think of Jerusalem as a city which is just fought over, but we are proving that it is a city of creativity.”

Entrepreneur Erel Margalit

Twenty young Jerusalemites gathered on the lawn at Margalit Startup City is not an uncommon sight. The place still serves as a home for startups, associations, and the JVP Foundation, so is often bustling with activity. Indeed, just last week one of the companies in the complex, Cnvrg, was sold to Intel for $60 million. But one gathering last week, was quite different.

Twenty entrepreneurs from Beit Hanina, Shuafat, Rehavia, Katamon, Baka, Talpiot and Beit Safafa gathered – in accordance with Coronavirus restrictions – for the first Jewish-Arab hackathon in Jerusalem. Yonatan Arnon, one of the organizers of the meeting, expressed his excitement at the gathering, “We have a vision, to build an innovative, integrated platform of Jerusalemites from all sectors. This is the beginning of a vision and building bridges. In the days when virtual reality covers everything – we create reality.”

Another organizer, Adnan Jaber, noted, “This meeting is a dream come true. I have been in a lot of peace programs, but never in Jerusalem. Let’s learn together and succeed together. Diversity will win out.”

Adnan Jaber (left) Erel Margalit (center) Yonatan Arnon (Right). Photo credit: May Hatib.

The meeting opened with one-minute elevator pitches, with each entrepreneur presenting their project to the Hackathon participants. Among the presenters was Saida Kurdia, who talked about her project utilizing technology to ensure healthy eating. Yusuf Awada said that as a waiter he was shocked by the level of food waste, and spoke of the need for an app that locates and distributes surplus food to the needy. Gilad Sevitt and Michal Rosen presented an idea for an app that will help those who want to learn spoken Arabic, Ohad Stosel explained about an app that will enable you to compare old pictures of Jerusalem to the modern day views as you visit them, and Ditza Keren presented her initiative for a center for Jewish and Arab musicians.

After presenting their ideas, the developers broke off into working groups to build the models together and solve the technological problems in each one’s idea. Finally, each idea was presented to judges who gave constructive comments on each project.

The hackathon took place in Margalit Startup City, near Jerusalem’s First Station Complex, home to dozens of hi-tech companies, associations and the longstanding JVP Fund led by entrepreneur Erel Margalit.

“People think of Jerusalem as a city which is just fought over, but we are proving that it is a city of creativity”, said JVP founder and chairman of Margalit Startup City, Erel Margalit. “This is a special city with hi-tech and innovation, with the ability to turn west to Europe and the US, and east to the Middle East and Asia. The young entrepreneurs are bringing energy to the city, and they are the people making the connections. This meeting proves the power we have in building big things together.”

The organizers of the hackathon are working to build on this first meeting, and embarking on a series of meetings and collaborations that will expand in the near future.

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