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Israeli Army Builds a Desert Outpost—Tech Firms Follow

EMC, Oracle, Lockheed and others open offices near future home of cybersecurity command
BE’ER SHEVA, Israel—A global tech hub is sprouting in the Israeli desert.

Over the next decade, Israel’s army is moving a large portion of its offices—including those of many of its key technology commands—out of the greater Tel Aviv area and relocating them some 60 miles south, to this city in Israel’s rock-strewn Negev desert. Many of the world’s biggest tech companies are following, eager to stay close to the Israel Defense Forces’ tech-savvy workforce.

EMC Corp. , the U.S.-based data storage and cloud computing giant, set up shop in a new industrial park on the outskirts of town last year. It was one of the first big firms to open offices in Be’er Sheva, anticipating the long-planned army move.

“The main reason EMC wants to be in Be’er Sheva is for access to talent,” said Maya Hofman Levy, the company’s site manager here. “It’s a place the company looked at and thought it would be good to be at [for] the long run, seeing what is being formed here.”

Neighbors now include Deutsche Telekom AG , Lockheed Martin Corp. , Oracle Corp. , and International Business Machines Corp. In March, eBay Inc. ’s PayPal unit bought cybersecurity startup CyActive Ltd., which is based in Be’er Sheva.

An unfinished pedestrian bridge links the new corporate office park with a nearby train station. Morning shuttles are already operating between the train station and the office park to save workers the 15-minute walk in temperatures that can reach as high as 115 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer.

On the opposite of the tracks sits the campus of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The university has teamed up with Deutsche Telekom for more than a decade building up an expertise in cybersecurity.

The Israeli government will launch by year’s end a new National Cyber Event Readiness Team, which also will be based at the office park. Its aim is to research possible cyberattacks on Israeli organizations and companies and coordinate response.

The corporate campus, currently made up of just two dark-glass buildings, is near hilly, desert terrain that once served as an Israeli army orienteering training ground. Gav-Yam Negev Ltd., the office park’s closely held developer, sees the number of office buildings increasing to between 15 and 20 within a decade. Currently, around 1,100 people work at the site. Gav-Yam expects that number to grow to 10,000 employees by 2025.

About half of the $5.9 billion budget allotted by the Israeli government for the army’s move will go to building technology and communications infrastructure, including plans for some of the army’s biggest data centers. Many of the international firms opening new offices in Be’er Sheva are hoping to get a piece of that build-out.

“It was natural for us to pick Be’er Sheva because of the ecosystem being formed there by the army, the industry and the university,” said Shelly Gotman, managing director of Lockheed Martin’s newly registered Israeli unit.


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