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Giving the Galilee and Northern Israel What it Deserves

Based on their success transforming Southern Israel from a dusty landscape to a modern metropolis through Blueprint Negev, the Jewish National Fund has been developing Northern Israel as part of its ambitious Go North initiative with plans to revitalize the Galilee
View of a flower-covered field near Mt. Gilboa in the Galilee. (Doron Horowitz/Flash90)
View of a flower-covered field near Mt. Gilboa in the Galilee. (Doron Horowitz/Flash90)

Jewish National Fund was founded by visionary Theodor Herzl in 1901 as the organization dedicated to reestablishing the Jewish homeland in the Land of Israel. What started off with collecting coins from Jews worldwide in our iconic Blue Boxes to purchase land and plant trees in pre-state Israel has blossomed into so much more. JNF is no longer considered the non-profit that just plants trees and beautifies Israel; rather, we are recognized as the boots-on-the-ground group that works with a multitude of Israeli partners to resolve and mitigate the country’s water crisis, provide inclusive access and rehabilitative services to the disabled, and build new communities in the nation’s peripheral areas.

Based on our successes in transforming Southern Israel from a dusty landscape to a modern metropolis through Blueprint Negev, JNF has been developing Northern Israel as part of its ambitious Go North initiative with plans to revitalize the Galilee.

Today is the time to celebrate the Galilee and all it has to offer.

We have seen firsthand the achievements gained as more and more Israelis and tourists discover the priceless hidden gems available beyond Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, and as planned extensions to Israel’s national railway network across the Galilee come to fruition, Northern Israel is becoming economically and socially viable. As highlighted in a recent issue of B’Yachad, JNF’s quarterly magazine (and American Jewry’s most widely-published periodical), JNF has work diligently with local organizations, leaders, and municipalities in the Galilee to provide a more secure and prosperous life for all Israelis.

Making up 17% of Israel’s landmass, the Galilee is home to approximately 1.2 million residents scattered among small and diverse communities and kibbutzim and largely disconnected from the country’s railway network to the larger cities in the center. Sadly, since the reestablishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948, the Galilee, and Northern Israel in general, remains underdeveloped and has fallen short of its vast economic and social potential. Through Go North this is now changing. With tangible successes and experiences with previous JNF initiatives focused on the development of the Negev Desert, Go North envisions new, modern infrastructure and development to help alleviate population congestion in Israel’s center, and aims to attract 300,000 new residents lay down their roots in this picturesque region.

A key component in realizing this vision is capitalizing on Northern

JNF's Russell F. Robinson at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Western Galilee Tourist Information Center in Akko.
JNF’s Russell F. Robinson at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Western Galilee Tourist Information Center in Akko.

Israel’s greatest asset: tourism. Along with our partner organizations, JNF is opening the Western Galilee Tourist Information Center in the historic city of Akko. Conveniently located within the Old City walls, the Information Center offers tourists and visitors a wide variety of short trip suggestions to local businesses and establishments in the vicinity. This service will not only put the Galilee on the tourism map, but will also help stimulate the region’s local economy and open peoples’ eyes to the vast opportunities and beauty the Galilee has to offer.

Similarly, Go North is tackling employment and population retention with an employment partnership with Nefesh B’Nefesh, an innovative program at the Erez College Natural Gas Vocational Training Center in Shlomi, and the Beit She’an Young Leadership Center. Each offers the chance for current and prospective residents to gain a foothold in new developing industries and assists new immigrants and residents secure livelihoods in the Galilee. To put that into perspective, as part of JNF’s One Billion Roadmap for the Next Decade, we have already committed $400 million to community building projects throughout Israel, with the Go North initiative receiving a significant amount to boost the tourist economy, industry, and community building.

Go North is but one of the many exciting programs JNF manages in Israel. Our main goal is to help catapult not just the Galilee, but Israel’s other frontier areas and to make them lucrative and desirable places to work, live, and lay down roots. We’ve seen the successes already in the Negev—Be’er Sheva is attracting global attention and high-tech investment as the “Silicon Valley of Israel.”

Now is the time to let the Galilee shine, and JNF will continue to serve as the guiding light in securing a bright and prosperous future for all who call Israel home.

About the Author
Russell F. Robinson is JNF’s chief executive officer. Under his leadership, JNF has developed successful far-reaching programs that play a significant role in the quality of life for all Israelis, such as community development, environmental work, sustainable development of the Negev, and solutions for Israel’s water crisis.
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