As if reading the news the past few months hasn’t been depressing enough with the worldwide economic downturn, the current conflict going on in Gaza had to happen to bring the news down to a whole new level of sadness. With each passing day it seems less likely that there will ever be a real peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and yet, as the current conflict unravels, one company, with an office in the Israeli city of Modi’in and another in the West Bank city of Ramallah seems to have found a solution.
That company, G.ho.st, is the only joint venture between Israelis and Palestinians and is defying the odds and difficulties that have arisen from strong sentiments on both sides. Founded in 2006, G.ho.st is short for Global Hosting Operating Systems and provides its 100,000 and growing users with a free vitual desktop that allows them to store items from their desktops and files and to access them from any computer connected to the Internet. G.ho.st calls it a virtual computer or VC.
The company is made up of 35 Palestinians who do software programming and are led by Director, Tareq Maayah and 6 Israelis, including CEO, Zvi Schreiber. Though the offices are relatively close to each other (under 6 miles away), because of restrictions, workers usually have to communicate via video conference and don’t have leisurely access to visiting each other. While the Palestinians are paid less than their Israeli counterparts (because the cost of living is less), both the Palestinians and Israelis have equal shares in the company.
According to correspondence I had with Schreiber this week, this model worked well and thrived during the relative peace that took place from the time G.ho.st was founded and, even now, is continuing to.
Schreiber explained that despite everyone’s concerns about the current conflict, in which employees on both sides have family and/or friends who are affected, work is still going on as usual and that the team, which includes people who worked through a previous conflict at their last job, is prepared to continue to work even if the situation were to spread to the West Bank.
Perhaps the secret to G.ho.st’s success and resilience of its employees so far has been the care that’s been taken to keep and maintain the common ground between employees in both offices. Prior to the latest conflict, the company would manage to get permits to bring everyone together in Israel for valuable team activities, meals, business updates etc. Because of the conflict though, Schreiber said that everyone is now (understandably) worried about the safety of their families and friends on both sides and there’s only so much the company can do about it. His hope however, is that “in some small way our team, working peacefully together, can be an example of what a different reality could look like.”
It’s not just the employees in the company working peacefully together though that can change reality. G.ho.st also has a foundation that is helping lay the groundwork for future joint ventures by creating community computer centers in Ramallah and in mixed Jewish-Arab towns in Israel. Perhaps if more companies were to use G.ho.st’s model in business and in the community, Schreiber’s hope will not only become a reality where the two sides co-exist knowing no borders and, in line with the G.ho.st slogan, no walls.