During a goodwill visit to the Valley on Jan. 30, Los Angeles-based Israeli Consul General David Siegel told members of the Hispanic Caucus of the Arizona State Legislature about hopes that Arizona State University would sign onto a partnership in Be’ersheva, which is to become the center of Israel’s cybersecurity program.
After the caucus briefing, arranged by the Arizona regional office of the Anti-Defamation League, we asked the consul general to elaborate on the partnership and Israel’s plans for the cybersecurity hub in the underdeveloped Negev Desert. (To read a complete transcript of this interview, which also discussed the overall security situation in the Middle East, click here.)
“We’re certainly inviting this partnership, and ASU has a built-in interest in partnering globally, and they’re very interested in Israel, and we hope this all takes place,” Siegel said. Ben-Gurion University, based in Be’ersheva, is also very interested in the partnership, he said. Common interests include robotics, cybersecurity, sustainability, alternative energy and water resource management.
The consul general went on to say that Be’ersheva’s role as a cybersecurity center in a public-private partnership has evolved over time, and that this role is part of a larger plan to develop the Negev region in Israel’s south and the Galilee region in the north to help spread out population centers across Israel and improve the economic health of the Negev region.
“We need to remember that Israel’s south is 60 percent of the country and it has 8 percent of the population,” he said, “so the Tel Aviv region is hyper-dense, some of the densest on Earth, and that has to change. One of the ways of changing that is moving opportunities and infrastructure down south and up north to the Galilee. So this is part of a major, major strategic effort for over a decade now, but we’re really seeing it come together now.”
Ben-Gurion University, which he described as an up-and-comer, “has quadrupled in size and has one of the largest, if not the largest, engineering department in Israel. And now that we’re moving major military bases, 30,000 soldiers will be moving south, many of them will live there. Moving that many people, that means you need new highways, you need new railways and you need new housing projects, and you need culture and entertainment and schools. It really feels like 2014 is like 1948 again, that we’re building a country from the bottom up.”
However, the bottom is much different from what it was in 1948. This will be a high-tech hub with major international corporate partners, such as IBM, which is basing its cybersecurity unit there, he said. The list of corporations coming specifically to take part in the cybersecurity hub includes Deutsche Telecom (parent of T-Mobile), Lockheed Martin, Cisco and EMC (one of the world’s largest cloud storage companies). Besides the synergies that will come from having the military, international corporations and the university in the currently disadvantaged neighborhood, “We’re building a high school where kids will be studying cybersecurity as their major from very early age, and they’ll benefit from being in a place where they can have internships with some of the largest companies in the world. We’re really building the future of Israel and the future of high-tech through this center, so it’s very exciting.”
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