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Palestinians yearn for the corporate life

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Christa Case Bryant/TCSM

(Read caption) Ammar Aker, CEO of the Palestine Telecom Group (PalTel), aims to build a model institution that can serve as a cornerstone in establishing a Palestinian state.

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Some 30,000 Palestinian applicants want a job at PalTel, a company that employs just 3,000, and it’s easy to see why.

On a ridge overlooking Ramallah, with its haphazard traffic, salesmen weaving through cars hawking their wares, jumbled power lines, and potholed roads, PalTel’s soaring headquarters is a microcosm of modern professionalism.

So despite the fact that CEO Ammar Aker has long had to take a Twister-like approach to his job, coming up with innovative workarounds to various Israeli restrictions on the Palestinian telecommunications sector, he finds deep satisfaction in working here.

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“What keeps me going is to see those young men and women in my company who are building a future,” he says. “Regardless of all these obstacles, we have managed to build an institution, a corporate environment, where everybody in the country looks up to.”

As an international businessman with a Canadian passport, he’s no stranger to such professional environments. In the West Bank, however, business is not just business; it is also an avenue for grooming a young generation that many hope will fulfill their parents’ and grandparents’ yearning for a state of their own.

“We always try to build a model institution for the Palestinians that we are hoping to make this institution a cornerstone in building a modern Palestinian state,” says Mr. Aker, who also hopes to expand into an international company one day. “What keeps me going is when I walk in every day and see people smiling and saying good morning and they dress nice, they look nice, they serve customers in a professional way and I just say, you know what, we made it but we still have to do more.”


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