DUBAI – The sea of Israelis in Dubai this week was hard to miss. At Dubai International Airport, the men assigned to help guide people to the check-in area they should use were already saying "six" in Hebrew to send people to the right walkway.
In Dubai mall, after passing the skating rink and massive toy store, Hebrew was common as people stood in awe at the immense shopping center.
A 15-minute drive from the mall takes you to the World Trade Center of Dubai where the GITEX Technology Week is taking place. In some ways, GITEX is like any other giant conference devoted to technology or business, except that this year's pandemic has toned down expectations for these kinds of gatherings. After a year of missed opportunities, the organizers say, "it's time to do business again." In person. Live.
Five major tech shows gathered for the first time this year, focusing on cybersecurity, blockchain and other technology innovations. There were 1,200 exhibitors from 60 countries from December 6-10 gathered in the heart of Dubai. From artificial intelligence to cloud computing, everything was on display.
Israelis, for the first time publicly, were exhibiting in masses. There were around 130 companies listed as part of a massive delegation that was supported by Israel's Foreign Ministry, the Israel Export Institute and the Economy and Industry Ministry, in cooperation with Bank Hapoalim.
There were a plethora of companies represented – from PickApp, which is an intelligent farm management solution, to larger companies, such as Pelephone. The Israeli section of the show included a lounge in one of the large hanger-like halls, which was next to a second giant hall set aside for a major Israeli-UAE presentation during the middle of the week. After the event, there were performances at the opera house. Israel brought its best face to GITEX and it shone bright.
A delegation of Israeli start-ups also exhibited at the GITEX Future Stars Exhibition area. MEA Consulting, a Tel Aviv based consulting business, brought the delegation of some 70 entrepreneurs to Dubai. MEA says that it "provides marketing consulting and business development services, and has been active in promoting business activities between Israel and the United Arab Emirates."
MEA co-founder George Giles said that "we are excited to take part in this historic moment and lead 20 startups and more than 70 entrepreneurs and technology leaders in the Israeli startup eco-system."
I met George and Gil Kraiem at the entrance to GITEX. The show is so large that one can get easily lost among all the robots and screens showing new technology. At one booth, Eyecon CEO Ken Zweibel said he was here for the first time. "We see this as a great gateway into the Middle East," he said. Eyecon helps with visual caller ID. It was a great show, he noted, a common theme that Israeli companies agreed with.
Moovex is another company that streamlines mobility efficiency. Speaking with the Moovex delegation, the innovators said they were looking forward to adapting to the UAE and the new environment.
At IGIN, which makes the world's "first and only automatic glove clothing system," numerous people were crowding around a machine that one can put their hands into and which helps in putting on the kind of gloves worn in hospitals.
Israeli companies feel part of the region in a way that is unusual and unprecedented.
It makes the "tedious task of wearing disposable gloves easier than ever," the company says. IGIN personnel were also excited to be there and said they had met people from all over the world, including countries with which Israel has no relations.
The overall feeling at GITEX was that Israel has entered a new world through the Abraham Accords and this is giving many countries that might have been hostile a chance to meet and see the innovations that Israelis are creating. It made Israel and the companies feel part of the region in a way that is unusual and unprecedented.
Seth Frantzman is a Ginsburg-Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and senior Middle East correspondent at The Jerusalem Post.