Apple CEO Tim Cook makes surprise Israel visit

Head of tech giant meets President Reuven Rivlin, opens new R&D center in Herzliya

Apple CEO Tim Cook (L) with President Reuven Rivlin (Photo credit:  Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Apple CEO Tim Cook (L) with President Reuven Rivlin (Photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Apple CEO Tim Cook arrived in Israel Wednesday to open a new research and development center. He also met with President Reuven Rivlin, who praised Cook’s “unprecedented contribution to humanity,” and with former president Shimon Peres.

“It is a great privilege to host you and your team here in Israel,” Rivlin told Cook. “Even for me, as one who prefers to write with a pen and paper, it is clear what a great miracle you have created when I look at my staff, and my grandchildren.”

Cook thanked Rivlin for his kind words, saying that he and his staff “have an enormous admiration for Israel, not just as an important ally for the US, but as a place to do business.”

The visit came after a week of speculation following rumors that Cook could be Israel-bound.

Apple’s R&D relationship with Israel goes back to 2012, when the US tech giant bought out Haifa-based Anobit, a maker of the flash memory controllers used in many Apple products.

With the Anobit acquisition, the company’s 200 employees – three quarters of whom are engineers – became Apple employees, and since then the Apple R&D center – Anobit’s new incarnation – has hired dozens more.

Apple’s new R&D center is in Herzliya, where dozens more engineers have been hired in recent months to fill positions there, according to Israeli media reports.

According to sources in Apple’s Israeli operation, the tech behemoth has hired dozens of engineers who are “bringing with them knowledge that Apple does not currently possess, and they will get a finished product almost specifically made for them. It’s part of Apple’s new strategy of developing the technology it needs in-house, instead of relying on outside companies and contractors.”

Among the topics discussed by Rivlin and Cook was the role of education in the advancement of poorer populations, and how Apple could help ensure that peripheral groups, like ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs, could become more integrated in Israel’s high-tech economy.

“We must learn from you how to help our students also in difficult places, as you have done in many schools in the US,” said Rivlin.

Cook said Apple had a great deal of experience in helping disadvantaged communities increase their tech skills.

“We are huge believers in education, and always felt that education is the great equalizer,” said Cook. “We are working hard to bring schools that have under-served children, to a much higher level.  We chose 120 schools from across the US, and we are working hard in the classroom, to help the children and their access to education.”

Rivlin also praised Cook for Apple’s policies on diversity.

“True innovation can only result from full access to education for all, regardless of race, religion, or sex.  We would like to learn from your experience in the US, in bringing education and technology to periphery groups and communities. I personally admire your work in human rights,” Rivlin told Cook, who recently announced that he was gay. “You are an inspiration for us to do even more.”

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