Russell F. Robinson

Jewish National Fund in Overdrive to Develop Israel’s North & South

At Jewish National Fund’s (JNF) National Conference in Los Angeles last month a new plan was announced to boost economic and housing development and a big push was revealed that will grow regional populations and tourism in the Western Galilee & Negev. These are 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.

Housing remains one of the biggest issues Israel faces and together with Keren Kayemeth Leisrael (KKL) we are expanding 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.”

Jewish National Fund will also raise $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.”

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 center, picnic areas and coffee rooms, all meant to serve the needs of 25-40-year olds and incentivize them to stay in the area.

JNF is committed 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. 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.

Over the course of the four-day conference, JNF’s success in Project Wadi Attir, a model sustainable desert community, was highlighted, as well as our partnerships JNF has in Israel to help 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 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.

JNF has a proud rich history as the boots-on-the-ground organization that builds a better future for the land and people of Israel – in times of both peace and war. Our vision to grow the north and the south is based on the successes we have long created in our homeland. We know this will work because we have done it before. And we believe in the phrase, “If you build it, they will come.” It is not a dream; it is the JNF reality.


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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