New Impetus for Negev Development

Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) Main Activist in New Impetus For Negev Development
KKL-JNF – Information and Publications
September 15, 2005

A new strategic plan for development of the Negev, in which Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL - Jewish National Fund) is a partner, in coordination with the Prime Minister's Office and Vice Premier’s Office and Daroma Association, is currently being launched. The initiative for the plan came from the Daroma Association, established about a year ago by David Merage, a Jewish philanthropist from the United States. He decided over a decade ago to invest funds for the development of the Negev and for promotion of education in the southern periphery. He has also set up a joint investment fund with senior Israeli businessmen.

KKL-JNF World Chairman, Yehiel Leket, welcomed the initiative, heralding a new momentum for the Negev, praising, in particular, the philanthropist and investor, David Merage, for his daring vision for development of the Negev and his personal commitment for its realization.

Daroma was requested by the Prime Minister's Office to formulate a strategic master plan to develop the Negev over the coming twenty years. Daroma is working on planning together with the office of the Vice-Premier, Shimon Peres, with the cooperation of KKL-JNF in reclamation and development of lands for housing, agriculture and sustainable environment.

The Negev plan actually builds upon the extensive work already achieved - or in various stages of implementation - by KKL-JNF in recent years. Among these are: water reservoirs, the restoration of Nachal Beersheba, the establishment of large parks for leisure and recreational activities for city residents, in Ofaqim, Dimona, Yeruham and Sderot. Also included are land reclamation for individual farmsteads, the breaking through of roads and land reclamation for new communities.

The master plan will be presented to the government at the beginning of October and to KKL-JNF directorate in mid-October.

The current plans deal with four spheres: community development, land reclamation for housing, business development and education. As part of a land exchange with the Israel Lands Administration, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-Jewish National Fund) will soon be receiving ownership of land on a large scale in the Negev. This exchange is the incentive to the plan, basing upon great practical experience in Negev development.

Yehiel Leket and Vice-Premier Shimon Peres have met recently to discuss the gamut of processes needed for Negev development. The two agreed on a full partnership of joint projects of Government and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-Jewish National Fund) in the Negev and Galilee. Peres and Leket agreed to make joint decisions on which projects are to be carried out jointly by the Government of Israel and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF).

Vice-Premier Shimon Peres has, inter alia, asked his staff for immediate involvement in joint research initiatives between Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) and the Province of Alberta, Canada, in nano-technology of water purification and ground water quality. Mr. Peres made these requests after the meeting with the Alberta scientific mission, visiting Israel as guests of KKL-JNF, headed by the Minister of Infrastructure of Alberta, Dr. Lyle Oberg. Mr. Peres praised the initiative of KKL-JNF, which led to creation of these research contacts.

As part of a one-week visit, the scientific mission toured water projects, visited at Peres Center for Peace, met senior scientists at the Weizmann Institute, the Technion and the Sde Boqer College during which the first agreement was signed between KKL-JNF and the Province of Alberta in the field of scientific cooperation. Alberta is, at this stage, allocating one million dollars for scientific-research cooperation in the field of development and preservation of water sources and preventing desertification. The research will have significant ramifications for water uses in Israel, particularly in the Negev.

In view of the new and promising impetus, KKL-JNF World Chairman Yehiel Leket calls on friends of KKL-JNF and Jewish communities around the world to join KKL Israel in promoting the gamut of projects planned for the Negev, whose importance for the future and economy of the country is vast. “The Minister of Infrastructure of Alberta defined what he saw in the Negev in the sphere of agricultural development, new communities and infrastructures as miraculous. We need a widely-based and dedicated mobilization to help these miracles take place."