Social Action is Fertile in the Negev Desert

The Monument to the Negev, near Beer Sheva

The Negev desert represents approximately 60% of Israel’s landmass, yet holds only 8% of its population. With few incentives to relocate there, the Negev, or the “periphery” as it is often referred to, represents both a challenge and an opportunity with respect to integration into Israeli society. These sentiments were echoed this past week by Jacob Dayan—former Israeli Consul General in Los Angeles and chief of staff to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tzipi Livni—who was in Montreal to speak at the 6th annual National Young Leadership Syposium, a 3-day event attended by young Jewish leaders across Canada and hosted by Federation CJA’s YAD Division. In speaking of the Negev, Dayan recalled the words of Ben Gurion, who said, “As a people who spent many years in the desert, it appears as if we still have not completed our journey”.

9,000 km

Distance between Montreal and its sister city Beer Sheva

Federation CJA, through its Israel and Overseas Committee, is proud to be part of the Negev Funding Coalition, which, along with 8 other North American Federations and spearheaded by JFNA’s Negev Work Group, seeks to inspire and support the development of the Negev and contribute to the region’s internal and external image. The focus has been on joint funding of strategic, high impact projects addressing the region’s significant challenges.

The Montreal Square, in Beer Sheva, was named in recognition of the Montreal Jewish community’s long-standing and monumental contribution to the city.

We have a personal interest in this region, being the home of our sister city, Beer Sheva. To this, Dayan said, “The fact that you are working in regions like Beer Sheva is so important. You will change people’s lives”. One of the programs funded by the Negev Coalition is “Young Communities, Sustainable Future” which is a networking program aimed at ten young adult communities throughout the Negev to help with sustainability, programming and a sense of shared community long-term. Dayan gave an example of how change is happening on a micro level in Beer Sheva, where he explained how 5 dilapidated buildings, renovated to house over 120 university students, have brought a vibrant sense of renewal to the old town with new cafés and shops now emerging to meet the needs of the growing student community there. The future of this desert region is looking quite fertile indeed.

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