JERUSALEM -- Above the bakery and next door to the sculpture studio in an aging industrial zone here can be heard the voices of the new world order.
The voices are not only talking in Hebrew, English and Russian, but they also are talking about Slovenian, Arabic, Polish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch and other languages. And they are talking in the arcane vocabulary of C++, a computer language, about creating umlauts, fonts and accents.
This is the cramped office of Kivun Computers Ltd., where Robert S. Rosenschein and a team of programmers are polishing a new computer word processing program that can write in more than a dozen languages at once, in the same document, using Microsoft Corp.'s Windows system.
The program, to be called Accent and geared toward Europe, will give the user the typefaces needed for each language, as well as a graphical "map" of the keyboard, spell-checking, hyphenation, thesaurus, help, documentation and "menu" choices.
A decade ago, Western technology was carefully guarded from export to places such as Poland. But today, Rosenschein hopes to sell his word processor in Poland, Hungary, the Czech and Slovak republics, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Bulgaria and other states where nationalism has been rekindled out of the ruins of the old Soviet empire.
A decade ago, Windows didn't exist either; Microsoft still was in its formative years, and the personal computer revolution was just getting underway. Now, Microsoft is a global software giant, inexpensive personal computers are becoming available around the world, and their huge popularity is opening the door to younger, aggressive entrepreneurs such as Rosenschein.
A decade ago, when Rosenschein immigrated here after working as a computer consultant in Washington, Israel was suffering through a series of economic crises and still fighting the Lebanon War. Now, Israel's economy has stabilized, threats to its existence have abated, and peace talks are underway with the Arab states and Palestinians.
The company hopes to expand from the tiny Israeli market of 5 million people to Europe and eventually to the Arab world, if there is peace with the Arab states and the Arab boycott of Israel is dismantled, said Jonathan Medved, executive vice president of Kivun.
Arabic uses the same right-to-left format as Hebrew, and Rosenschein has developed a way to make his program write in either direction, with a click of a mouse. He also solved the more complex problem of making the program write in both directions in the same document.
"We understand bidirectional software the way no one else does," said Medved. "Until now, Israeli software has not been welcome in the Arab world. We are going to test that."
Israel's economic future may come to depend on the fortunes of Kivun and companies like it.
Each year, Israel continues to import $5 billion to $6 billion more than it exports, and it relies on $3 billion a year in U.S. foreign aid to help close the gap. But Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and others here have warned that Israel cannot count on the U.S. aid forever, and they are looking for ways to make the country more economically self-sufficient.
The best way to achieve that is through increased exports, economists say. But Israeli firms historically have had trouble marketing their products abroad. It's commonly said by business leaders here that Israelis are great at developing solutions to problems, but, with limited capital and a tiny home market, they are not very good at selling them.
"Nowadays for software to succeed, it's not enough that you have a decent product," said Jeffrey Starr, marketing director for Magic Software Enterprises Ltd., one of Israel's largest and most successful software firms.
"What really makes or breaks it is marketing, which requires a massive amount of resources for advertising, literature, and exhibitions," Starr said.
What Kivun is preparing to do -- mass-market a consumer-oriented piece of software in Europe -- is practically unheard of in Israel, although other Israelis have invented and sold programs, such as virus-checkers, to U.S. partners.
Also, Kivun may face competition; there is at least one multilingual Windows processor being developed by a California firm. In addition, for Macintosh computers, which use a different operating system than the IBM-compatible computers that run Windows, there is a multilingual, bidirectional word processor from Nisus Software of Solana Beach, Calif.
Kivun also is exploiting the flood of brainpower into Israel, a country with precious little in the way of natural resources or manufactured products to export.
According to a Bank of Israel study, programmers and engineers accounted for the two largest groups of professionals among the immigrants who have arrived in the last few years from the former Soviet Union. Kivun's staff of 15 programmers includes a recent immigrant from Armenia. Seven of the translations needed for Accent are being done inside the office.
In technology, too, Kivun seems to be an upstart, poised to prick the attention of global giant Microsoft.
Microsoft has created a huge market for computer programs that run with Windows, which allows the user to make simple choices from the screen rather than memorize complex commands. But most of the Windows programs today are in English. In the word processor market, Microsoft is offering its leading product, Word for Windows, in packages that have been "localized" with another language, such as French or German. Other major word processors are also being offered in localized languages.
But the key achievement of Kivun was to invent a Windows word processor that can be broadly multilingual, running in several languages at once, even in the same document. "It was simply making Windows think in a way it had never thought in," Rosenschein said.
At first, when Microsoft wanted to create a Hebrew version of Windows in Israel, it turned to Rosenschein. Kivun helped develop the Hebrew version of Windows, which came out last year and has sold 11,000 copies here. The program includes "Hebrew Write," a small word processor with right-to-left text.
Next, Rosenschein built his own word processor for Windows, called Dagesh, which in Hebrew means emphasis. It can write in Hebrew, English and Russian.
Although there had been a number of Hebrew word processors, there was nothing like it for Windows, and Kivun suddenly dominated the small Israeli market. The program has sold 4,000 copies since its introduction this year, Medved said.
Microsoft is expected later this year to introduce a Hebrew version of Word for Windows, which includes some powerful features that Dagesh lacks. Erez said many Israeli firms are waiting to see what Microsoft offers, but the longer they have to wait, the more Dagesh will be able to dominate the market.
Now, Rosenschein and Medved are getting ready for an even more ambitious move into Europe, with Accent, which is expanded from Dagesh. The program, which will sell for about $400, is to be introduced in September. It will not include Hebrew, but will include full "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" documents to be created simultaneously in more than 20 languages, including English, Russian, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Hungarian and Dutch, the company said.
Beyond Europe, Rosenschein said the program could be adapted to other languages as well; for example, to write in Afrikaans, or Welsh. Since Kivun is relatively small, the company can make a profit from selling only a few thousand copies of its software in a niche market, which giant Microsoft probably would ignore.
"But the stakes in Europe are much, much higher," said Medved.