War in Israel causes worry for Bay Area companies with employees stationed to work overseas

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Saturday, October 14, 2023
War in Israel worries Bay Area companies with staff stationed overseas
The head of one Silicon Valley company is in Israel now trying to help her employees based there.

MENLO PARK, Calif. (KGO) -- The head of one Silicon Valley company is in Israel now trying to help her employees based there.

"We have to raise awareness and, business leaders, we don't have a choice. It's our obligation to acknowledge what happened," said Mayaan Cohen.

Cohen is the founder and CEO of Hello Heart, a health technology company with operations in Menlo Park and Israel.

Cohen was at a tech conference when she first heard the tragic news coming out of Israel. Immediately her concern was for her employees based in Tel Aviv -- those employees experiencing horrifying situations.

MORE: Americans hoping to leave Israel with help from US must agree to repay government before departure

Americans hoping to leave Israel with help from U.S. must agree to repay the government before they leave the war zone.

"She was locked in a shelter for 30 hours with her two kids, and she was trying to keep them quiet because she didn't want to draw attention," Cohen said of her talent acquisition manager's experience. That employee and her children eventually got out alive, but many of their neighbors did not.

"Her neighbors, her family and other homes started to get slaughtered," Cohen said. "House by house."

Cohen is in Israel now with her employees, helping to set up a logistics center to provide support to her workers and others.

"Casualties on all sides are horrific for Palestinian and Israelis. Everybody's suffering because of the situation and because of Hamas' cruelty," she said.

MORE: American death toll rises to 27, US Embassy to help Americans evacuate Israel

While Cohen was able to get from the U.S. to Israel, many U.S. citizens have been trying to come back to the states.

The state department has worked to facilitate some of those evacuations.

Friday, Congressman Mike Thompson confirmed some of his Napa and Sonoma county constituents were evacuated or in the process of being evacuated.

"We worked with them, and we worked with the State Department and they were out today," Thompson said of those who made it out of Israel so far. "Last I heard, they were resting comfortably and safely in Italy and getting ready to make their trip back to my district in California."

MORE: Israel music festival survivor reunited with parents in US: 'I really fought for my life'

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo has also had constituents trying to return.

All of this happening while the Republicans' House Speaker race is impacting how lawmakers can respond.

"The House of Representatives has essentially been abandoned," she said. "It's paralyzed. It's not open for business, and I think it's a disgrace."

As work continues at the federal level, Cohen hopes that other business leaders will prioritize the well-being of employees impacted by the horrors of the war.

"We have a role as business leaders, and we need to step up," she said. "We need to take action, and we need to just acknowledge what happened."

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