created at: 2010-05-06

The Mayor of the Israeli town of Omer, along with leading architects, city planners and landscape architects from the Be’er Sheva River Project, recently visited Boston and Providence as part of a tour across the US learning how other cities have revitalized and energized tourism through city river parks. Plans also include stops in Texas and Arizona.

The group visited with the New England Zone Board of Directors in President Lawrence Cohen’s office, Edwards Angell Palmer and Dodge. Cohen is a strong champion of the Be’er Sheva River Project, having already raised millions for a promenade along the river walk. The delegation also had a special meeting with Providence Mayor David Cicilline and Mary Tinti, the Deputy Artistic Director of WaterFire, at the Providence Law offices of Brown Rudnick LLP; partners Ed Hershfield and William Farrell hosted.

Be’er Sheva, known as the Capital of the Negev, is home to 200,000 residents. Through it runs the Be’er Sheva River, a muddy trickle of water except on the few days a year when flash floods run down its banks. The city’s image has mirrored the landscape. Despite its historical significance, many have seen Be’er Sheva as a stagnant backwater, culturally and geographically isolated from the modern miracle of modern Israel.

Jewish National Fund, through its Blueprint Negev initiative, is providing the means for a renaissance for this Negev metropolis. The centerpiece is the Be’er Sheva River Park, a massive water, environment and economic development project that is transforming the riverfront into a 1,700-acre civic paradise.

The Be’er Sheva River Park will be an engine for the city’s rebirth. Working with the Israel government and other partners, the creation of a thriving waterfront district will attract new businesses and entice visitors passing through the city to stop, relax, and enjoy a green desert oasis that offers a wealth of possibilities for family recreation. With the construction of beautiful new homes, oriented toward the park and the river, young families are moving to this exciting new neighborhood. Be’er Sheva’s image is being transformed into that of a green and vibrant modern city, truly the capital of the Negev.