Eyal Waldman speaking to members of the Bay Area chapter of UnXeptable on Nov. 29.
Eyal Waldman speaking to members of the Bay Area chapter of UnXeptable on Nov. 29.

Eyal Waldman, a tech giant whose daughter was killed by Hamas, is open to peace

Eyal Waldman has long been known as an Israeli tech giant, which is how he was introduced in a recent webinar. But now he is also known as a bereaved father. His 24-year-old daughter, Danielle, was murdered by Hamas while she was attending the Nova music festival on Oct. 7 with her 26-year-old partner, Noam Shay, who was also killed.

Waldman spoke this week as part of an online discussion with 200 viewers hosted by Offir Gutelzon, the Palo Alto co-founder of UnXeptable. The grassroots group was founded to fight against a judicial overhaul in Israel but has since pivoted to supporting Israel’s war effort from abroad.

Waldman co-founded the Israeli company Mellanox, selling it in 2019 for nearly $7 billion. For a time, he lived in Palo Alto, where Danielle was born and spent her first 3½ years.

Under Waldman’s leadership, Mellanox hired numerous Palestinian tech workers from the West Bank and Gaza, he said. He donated hundreds of thousands of dollars for a field hospital in Gaza, and in the past worked with some Palestinians to come up with a formula for a peace agreement.

Obviously, things are different now, he said.

Waldman learned of the Oct. 7 massacre while he was in Indonesia. His other daughter and his son called him to say they hadn’t heard from Danielle after the attacks began.

He arrived back in Israel the next day and made his way south as soon as he could, traveling with an army escort. After some searching, they found the car of his daughter’s friends on the side of the road, with trails of Kalashnikov shells nearby.

“I kept hoping she’s wounded and was able to escape and hide somewhere, or was taken hostage,” he said. But days later, “we got notice their bodies were identified.”

Four out of five in their car were murdered, and one was taken hostage.

Danielle and Noam met in the Israel Defense Forces and had been together six years. She’d recently told her father they planned to marry and move north out of Tel Aviv.

“We buried them together and had a funeral for the both of them instead of a wedding,” he said.

Though Waldman was involved in political efforts before, his daughter’s death spurred him to further action. He met President Biden when he came to Israel, and has met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken three times, he said.

Despite the optics of pro-Palestinian activism abroad, he feels confident that Israel has the U.S. and nearly all of Europe in its corner. He said the same is true in much of the Arab world, too, though they won’t say so out loud.

“The majority of Arab countries we’re dealing with will never admit it openly, but they support us and have said, ‘If you start this, don’t stop until you finish,’” Waldman said. “We are doing the dirty job for the world in trying to eradicate Hamas.”

We are doing the dirty job for the world in trying to eradicate Hamas.

Taking a more global view, he said that in the past 50 years, more than 70 violent conflicts around the world have been resolved, including in South Africa, Ireland and Yugoslavia. That’s why he still sees the two-state solution as the only viable answer after Hamas is eliminated. Furthermore, the moderate Arab countries that have slowly recognized Israel need to help Gaza rebuild, he said.

Few would have believed there would be peace with Egypt after the Yom Kippur War, Waldman noted, and that’s a lesson for today.

“Sadat made peace with Israel [in 1977] when Egypt did not support him, Israelis didn’t trust him, and Begin didn’t trust him,” he said, referring to the Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. “Within a few months we had peace with our worst enemy. I hope from this awful crisis, within three to four years, we’ll have peace, too.”

For that to happen, Waldman said both governments need to be replaced. Even before the current war, most Israelis had lost faith in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and now they hold him responsible for the colossal intelligence failure that allowed the Hamas attacks to happen.

When Gutelzon asked Waldman whether he might go into politics himself, he left it open.

“It’s not something I’ve ever wanted,” Waldman said. But losing his daughter in such a horrible way has made him re-evaluate his priorities. “I’m doing a lot of talks,” he said, “but I don’t have an answer right now.”

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."