Israeli exec who hired Palestinians in tech boom still hopes for peace while mourning slain daughter

When Eyal Waldman thinks of his youngest daughter and her boyfriend, he sees them dancing.

“Danielle and Noam loved dancing, and I hope they continue dancing somewhere up there,” Eyal Waldman told MarketWatch.

Danielle Waldman and Noam Shay were killed at a music festival in southern Israel last week, part of a campaign by the Hamas terrorist group that has led to further bloodshed.

Danielle’s father — an Israeli tech executive who co-founded Mellanox, which became the largest acquisition in Nvidia Corp.’s

history — spoke with MarketWatch as Friday turned to Saturday in Israel, in hopes of increasing attention on the hostages who are still held in Gaza as well as to memorialize his daughter, who was 24, and Shay, who was 26.

“They loved to celebrate life,” Eyal Waldman said of his daughter and her boyfriend, before adding “they went down on Friday night to celebrate life, love and freedom, and they were massacred.”

Courtesy of Eyal Waldman

Danielle Waldman — who was born in Palo Alto, California, but moved back to Israel with her family at age 4 — and Israeli native Shay were students who met six years ago in the army, and her father said they had been inseparable since. They attended the Supernova music festival in early October with friends, and were killed while attempting to escape Hamas terrorists in a car that Eyal Waldman found bullet-riddled near the festival’s location.

“Danielle and Noam have done nothing bad to anyone, and they were murdered only because they were Israelis,” he said.

Eyal Waldman, a onetime Israeli combat fighter, founded Mellanox in 1999, and sold it 20 years later to Nvidia for $6.9 billion. He is known internationally for attempting to foster peace between Israelis and Palestinians through his work in technology — Mellanox hired Palestinian tech workers in Gaza, Nablus and the West Bank town of Rawabi, which led to a “60 Minutes” appearance.

“We wanted to make peace, to work together, to bring prosperity to the Palestinian people, the same as we have in Israel,” he said. “I brought even Apple

to open a design center in Rawabi and I brought other companies to open design centers in Rawabi.”

The death of his daughter and Shay and the scope of the attacks and counter-attacks dominating headlines in recent days have not changed Waldman’s hope for peace in the future, he said, but not the near future. He believes this time, the violence “took us back several years, if not decades.”

“We need time to build the trust, if at all, between the two nations and start working together to be able to talk about peace,” he said. “Until then, we will continue protecting ourselves in a very direct manner in Gaza and everywhere else around Israel.”

Waldman also said he would continue to try to hire Palestinians and work with them to be a part of the Israeli tech ecosystem, as long as they state “that they are working for peace, and they are not supporting — not financially and not in any other way — any terror actions, or any actions that are not civilian economics between the two nations.”

“Our hands are always reaching out for peace. But at the same time, before we do this, we need people to understand that Israel is strong, Israel is united, and we will never let anyone harm the citizens of the state of Israel again.”

Read: Israel-Gaza war scenarios: Here’s what might lift oil prices to $95, $100 and $115 a barrel

Waldman was thankful for U.S. aid and was forceful in discussing the need to find hostages that were still missing. One of Nvidia’s current employees was kidnapped, according to an email that Chief Executive Jensen Huang sent to employees that was obtained by Insider, which reported that the employee was also at the Supernova music festival.

Nvidia has more than 3,000 employees in Israel mostly working for Mellanox, which makes networking gear that connects Nvidia’s high-performance data-center products. In an emailed statement, an Nvidia spokesman said “our focus now is working with our Israel leadership to ensure our employees and their families are safe and well cared for. We will then turn our focus to shoring up [the company’s] execution if necessary to ensure continued operations of our business.”

Waldman said the return of hostages is top of mind.

“What’s important now is to focus on bringing back the hostages, and that is the No. 1 priority for the State of Israel and for the international community,” he said.

Continuing to worry about others while suffering his own tragedy is a trait that Eyal Waldman seems to have passed down to his youngest daughter. He said that he had received a note from another festival attendee who was wounded in the eye in the initial attack. That victim told him that Danielle Waldman had stopped to attend to her and make sure she was safe before attempting to escape in a car that was later believed to have been attacked by Hamas terrorists with rifles.

“They loved to celebrate life,” Waldman said of his daughter and her boyfriend.

“And they went down on Friday night to celebrate life, love and freedom, and they were massacred.”

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