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From Soldiers To Moguls

The ancient walks of Israel have proven fertile ground for the cyber-revolution, with soldiers turned software startup kings using military know-how, government subsidies and ingenuity to make the desert bloom Silicon Valley green.

Israel's high-tech cluster, Silicon Wadi, Arabic for the Middle East's dry riverbeds, employs about 6 percent of the country's workforce. They take home twice the salary of their fellow workers, averaging $30,000 a year.

Israel's stunning rise in the high-tech arena - the industry is now worth $4 billion annually - can be credited to entrepreneurs who have taken advantage of technologies first developed in Israel's army.

Many worked in California during the microchip boom and then returned to the country in the late 1980s.

That, coupled with the budding peace process, encouraged international investment. At about the same time, recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union provided an abundant supply of cheap but highly skilled labor. The government offered capital and support for startup companies.

Israel is most prominent in the fields of systems security, telecommunications and imaging.

Explaining his country's cyber success, Oded Kafri, 54, who founded several startup companies, cited a parallel between Israel and the United States.

"I think the Israelis are very similar in many aspects to the Americans as a country of immigrants which has talent from all over the world," Kafri said, "Israel has the spark that you see in America."

More Destinations on Digital Planet
Silicon Valley, Calif.Seattle, Washington
Boston, MassachusettsAustin, Texas
New York, New YorkDublin, Ireland
Cambridge, EnglandSophia Antipolis, France
Oulu Technopolis, FinlandHaifa, Israel
Bangalore, IndiaZhongguancun, China
Kyushu Island, JapanTaipei, Taiwan
SingaporeKuala Lumpur, Malaysia
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Written by Dina Kraft

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