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‘Zoom calls in safe rooms’: UK’s Israeli tech community rocked by Hamas war

Image credit: Jose HERNANDEZ / Shutterstock

The sudden and violent outbreak of war in Israel-Palestine this week has rocked the UK’s Israeli tech community.

More than 400 Israeli tech companies operate in the UK, collectively employing 6,300 UK residents.

Several high-profile tech firms founded in Israel are now headquartered in London, including Gett, Plus500 and Rapyd.

UKTN reached out to more than 15 startups, investors and tech leaders based in the UK with significant connections to Israel to understand how events are impacting the tech community here – and how companies are responding.

Almost all companies and UK-based Israeli founders said that they could not fully share their experiences yet since they were preoccupied with more urgent tasks.

All acknowledged that Hamas’ brutal and unexpected attacks on the South of Israel and the subsequent war in Gaza are having a significant impact on them both professionally and personally.

While declining requests for interviews, they described their experiences as “incredibly difficult” and ”very distressing”. Many startups explained that they were prioritising supporting employees in Israel while trying to maintain business as usual.

In addition to the emotional impact – expressed in heartfelt posts by UK-based Israeli tech professionals on LinkedIn – UK offices are accommodating Israel-based employees who are unable to work as normal due to the attacks.

Tech leaders based in Israel estimate that around 10-30% of Israel’s tech employees have been called up to reserve army service, and with schools closed and rockets hitting Tel Aviv – where most Israeli startup offices are based – Israeli tech workers are limited in how much time they can spend at their desks.

Noy Gurevitz, UK people manager at Israel-founded startup Monday.com, which has its European headquarters in London, told UKTN that around 6% of the company’s workforce has been called up for military duty and that the company is supporting them and their families however they can.

“We are closely monitoring the situation in Israel and are in constant connection with our colleagues on the ground,” she said. “Our global workforce is united and we do not anticipate any interruption to our business or platform at this time.”

Gurevitz added that employees were working from home or the office “as they see fit”. Anecdotally, others in Israel have shared that there are some tasks that cannot be done effectively from Israel, forcing companies to shift responsibilities around.

Since Saturday, the death toll in Israel has reached 1,300. More than 1,800 people have died in Israeli air strikes on Gaza. The Israeli government has shut off power, water and fuel to Gaza. Israel’s energy minister, Israel Katz, said on Thursday that they would not restore those services until Hamas freed the 150 hostages it has taken and is holding in Gaza.

UN experts have condemned the violence against Israeli civilians and described the Israeli reprisal strikes as “collective punishment”, which is a war crime.

‘Zoom calls in safe rooms’

Writing on LinkedIn in Hebrew, Ronen Nir, managing director at growth equity firm PSG, said tech companies are prioritising customer-facing roles and devops, and moving people from other teams into these roles to replace those who are unable to work.

He also shared that he knows companies that have “reinforced CS [customer success] teams abroad” in response to clients who have been “stressed by Zoom calls with people in safe rooms and background sirens”.

Ben Crome, head of UK tech at Headline Media, a tech public relations firm headquartered in Tel Aviv, has observed that most tech employers in the UK understand that events in Israel are affecting employees’ ability to work.

“Companies which employ Israelis are realising that it can’t be ‘business as usual’ for now as [Israeli] employees are in reserves, dealing with childcare and grieving,” he said.

On Monday, the first working day in the UK after Hamas launched violent, unprecedented attacks against Israel on Saturday morning, Ofer Shayo, managing director of deep tech accelerator Intel Ignite in London, shared that he and other Israeli tech workers in the UK were not able to conduct normal business meetings and activities.

“Many of us are cancelling meetings and putting work on hold to focus on raising money, supporting Israeli relatives and other initiatives like cybersecurity projects or trying to find missing people,” he said.

Shayo – along with others UKTN spoke to – mentioned that by Monday, an initiative shared across “Israelis in UK tech” WhatsApp groups had arranged for a private jet to fly Israelis in the UK back home – for reserve army service or to support family in Israel.

While no one UKTN spoke to could confirm who the organisers were, a post on X (formerly Twitter) mentioned a British-Israeli tech entrepreneur, Shneor Crombie, who had helped “hundreds” of Israelis stuck in the UK due to cancelled flights get back home.

Israel-affiliated startups in the UK and around the world have been directly contributing to tech projects to support Israel. Gurevitz at Monday.com highlighted that her company had encouraged 200 employee volunteers to work on “simple, accessible technological infrastructure” to provide assistance to Israelis who needed it.

UK calls for tech firms to support Israel

On Thursday Michelle Donelan, the secretary of state for the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), referenced such initiatives in her letter calling for UK tech firms more broadly to “leverage resources, capabilities and expertise to assist in Israel”.

But a number of Israelis in tech have expressed that what they appreciate and need the most are the statements of support – communicated privately and publicly – from their UK peers. On LinkedIn, Ziv Tubin, head of UK at Israeli startup RiseUp, which recently expanded into the country, encouraged UK colleagues to “grab a coffee, check-in, express support” and thanked those who had already done so.

Crome and others highlighted that VC firms have been leading the way in making public statements supporting those affected in Israel.

Index Ventures, which has Israeli portfolio companies and a partner in Israel, said: “Index Ventures has been an investor and supporter of the Israeli high-tech ecosystem from its beginnings. We have watched in disbelief the atrocious events that have been unfolding for the past few days.

“There are no words to describe how deeply shocked we are by the attacks, and our heart goes out to our founders, their teams, our friends, and the many innocent civilians devastated by the violence. We’re making financial contributions to humanitarian organisations in the region to help those who have been affected. We stand in support of our Israeli friends and partners.”