The Negev: Key to the future development of Israel

“It is in the Negev that the creativity and pioneer vigor of Israel shall be tested.” - David Ben-Gurion

As the founding father of Israel knew, the Negev region is key to the future development of Israel. Now, nine North American federations, including Montreal, have joined together for the first time to inspire and support the development of high-impact projects in the region.

The future of the Negev will require a number of improvements:

  • attracting and retaining a strong population of young adults;
  • improved employment and educational opportunities;
  • addressing the needs of the Bedouin community;
  • connecting the region geographically, culturally and economically to the rest of the country;
  • and improving the image of the region within Israeli society and internationally.

Federation CJA, through its Israel & Overseas Committee, is a member of the Jewish Federations of North America’s Negev Work Group and Negev Funding Coalition to undertake Negev-wide initiatives that are broader in scope than just Montreal’s partnership region of Beer Sheva.

The Negev Funding Coalition recently undertook a structured review of grant applicants and decision-making processes.  Two impressive programs were chosen to receive significant grants: Young Communities, Sustainable Future and Enabling a Brighter Future Renewable Energy Initiative.

The entire Negev region desperately requires adequate social services that address real needs for its population.  The Young Communities, Sustainable Future project will identify 10 significant communities in the Negev and influence and promote the level of services they receive. Each community will identify and provide the services most needed in their neighborhood and city, while simultaneously building networks to pool efforts and resources. The unique aspects of the program are its grassroots community action, its commitment to social change and its networking with like-minded communities throughout the region.

In addition, these developing services will create occupational opportunities, improve the social and economic status of the Negev and enlarge its population of strong, educated and employed families. The focus will be on education through daycare, kindergartens and schools; children and youth at-risk with after-school clubs, “warm homes”, foster homes, parent and children centers; people with disabilities including assisted living, social clubs, programs for young adults and children and occupational programs; and the elderly with day programs, employment frameworks, health care, neighborhood watch and more.

Enabling a Brighter Future Renewable Energy Initiative has shown that the Negev has a window of opportunity to develop new employment in the field of renewable energy. Housed in the Eilot region, the goal is to use existing public structures and lands to set up small-scale power production centers whose income will serve to fund this project as a long-term enterprise. Once the initial investment has been made, a 16% return will be available annually for funding of additional and appropriate projects in the region.

The Negev Funding Coalition currently includes nine federations: Montreal, Miami, Metro West, Central New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, Toronto, San Diego and Delaware; each of which has made commitments to fund pan-Negev projects together.

Marilyn Blumer, Tikun Olam’s Editor-in-Chief and Past President of Federation CJA, is Chair of the Negev Work Group of Jewish Federations of North America.

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