Paulus VI is the single, narrow artery that snakes through the old city of Nazareth, choked with a seemingly endless line of vehicles. On either side of the thoroughfare, there is dust and noise and vendors chatting at high decibel in Arabic in relentless heat. For the last two years, a sign above a modern sand-colored building spells out in English, “Microsoft.” The new R&D headquarters of the American giant is just one of the several tech-related initiatives to open in the city in recent years.

Known as Israel’s Arab capital, Nazareth is home to 75,000 residents, most of whom are Muslims. Two years into the implementation of the Israeli government’s $3.85 billion plan for the “social development of Israel’s Arab population,” Nazareth is now pushing to take its place alongside emerging competition from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan to become a hub of Middle Eastern tech entrepreneurship.