JEWISH NATIONAL FUND IN OVERDRIVE TO DEVELOP ISRAEL’S NORTH AND SOUTH
At National Conference Plan Announced to Boost Economic & Housing Development;
New Push to Grow Regional Populations & Tourism in Western Galilee & Negev
JNF President Jeffrey E. Levine announced exciting new campaigns to attract young people to Israel’s northern and southern areas.
With 80% of Israel’s land area located outside the center of the country and young people typically inclined to live in the cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, they often find it difficult to manage expenses due to the high cost of living and intense competition for employment. In the $1 Billion Dollar Roadmap for the Next Decade that JNF introduced last year, a strategic plan was put into action to develop the country’s northern and southern regions that remain largely uninhabited. The plan calls for bringing 500,000 people to the south and 300,000 to the Galilee in the Blueprint Negev and Go North campaigns, respectively.
Speaking at the Beverly Hilton before 900 conference participants from across the United States, Levine remarked, “Housing remains one of the biggest issues Israel faces and together with Keren Kayemeth Leisrael (KKL) I am announcing the expansion of our $25 million housing fund initiative, the most revolutionary in the history of Israel. We will provide thousands of people with the opportunity to build their own homes in the Negev and Galilee.”
Levine added, “I’m announcing today that we are raising $10 million to enhance the Beit She’an and the Valley of the Springs region in the north to bring new populations there and to allow young people to stay. We’re also building a $5 million Young Leadership Center in Beit She’an that will help spark entrepreneurial, social, cultural and artistic creativity for those people already there and serve to attract others to come.”
Levine described how the new center (located in a former technology school and situated on 100 acres) will feature innovative programming and classes, classrooms, technology labs, community rooms, a movie house, performing arts events, picnic areas and coffee rooms, all meant to serve the needs of 25-40-year olds and incentivize them to stay in the area.
He also announced JNF’s commitment to promoting travel to the Western Galilee to enhance the region’s tourism industry and provide new jobs and economic development where 650,000 people currently reside there. Levine stated that the time is right to develop the travel industry, which will in turn produce added employment as people come to the area for lengthier vacations and itineraries that include the region’s wineries, artisanal cheese factories and organic farmers, historical sites, boutique artists, expert travel guides, and farm-to-table restaurants.
JNF will also build the new $3 million JNF Western Galilee Visitor Center in Akko. The new tourism center will help to further increase annual travel to the area and from the 2.5 million who currently venture through Akko, a historic site along the Mediterranean that features ancient Roman, medieval Templar, and Ottoman fortresses and ruins.
Additionally, Levine discussed the importance of an international abroad experience for college applicants and the objective of growing enrollment at Alexander Muss High School in Israel (a JNF partner) from 1,500 to 5,000 students over the next five years.
Over the course of the four-day conference, JNF’s success in Wadi Attir, a model sustainable desert community, was highlighted, as well as the partnerships that JNF has in Israel that have helped 10,000 Bedouins with new social and economic development in Rahat and Segev Shalom, and the increase in economic development opportunities in the towns of Mitzpe Ramon, Ofakim, Dimona, Arad and Sderot.
Also announced was the plan to build the largest dormitory for students in the Negev at Sapir College in Sderot to draw hundreds of young people to the southern area. It is anticipated that the effect of the college’s growth will have a positive impact on local economic development. Additionally, two new major central parks in Sderot will be built to serve the community there.
National Conference 2014 commenced on September 12 and closed Monday, September 15, following the keynote address by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman to 1,300 participants and members of the greater Los Angeles community.