New Minister of Negev Development Attests to Region's Importance
Standing at the entrance to Givot Bar, one of the new communities Jewish National Fund (JNF) is building in the Negev Desert, Minister Ya'acov Edry, the newly appointed Minister of Absorption and Minister for the Negev and Galilee Development, took a sweeping look around and smiled.
Taking in the crowd of young families, children, members of the Regional Council, and representatives of JNF, he said: "Shimon Peres, now president of Israel, was the man behind the modern vision of developing the Negev Desert. His passion and foresight are what brought you all here today. I am honored to be part of the team that will take Givot Bar and the Negev to the next level."
Development of the Negev Desert -- 60% of Israel's landmass but home to only 8% of its population -- is vital for the future of the country. Blueprint Negev, JNF's $600 million campaign to develop the region, will lead to a 70% growth in the Negev's population, close the existing economic and educational gaps, reduce the unemployment rate, enhance quality of life for all residents, and build a stronger Israel.
The plan, which includes a government investment of over $4 billion, non-profit investment of $600 million, and private investment of $2.5 billion, includes infrastructure; housing loans and incentives; education; employment opportunities; tourism; partnerships; bolstering existing towns; the military; building new communities; creating opportunities for the Bedouin; safeguarding the environment; and water.
"The challenge is immense," said Edry, "and the task of carrying out such a tall order imperative.
"Multi-faceted projects need to be forged and executed in Israel's south," he said. "Done right, they can serve as leverage for a surge of initiatives that will generate meaningful change in the region and signal to veteran Israelis and new immigrants alike that today, the Negev is the place to build a life and call home.
"Building an infrastructure that will attract an inflow of new residents from a strong socio-economic bracket will boost the Negev's economy, tap its enormous potential - including the available superior human capital - close social gaps and help redistribute Israel's population more evenly and more effectively.
"The plan for developing the Negev is, without a doubt, ambitious," he said. "It calls for nothing less than an appropriation of funds, a pioneering spirit and a deep sense of commitment. We look to the partnership with JNF-KKL, who has harnessed its energy and resources to support this plan. Developing the Negev is a matter of national importance, and bringing it to fruition is of the essence. Israel needs this. It must be a national vision. Today does not mark the beginning of the enterprise but a successful step in securing the future of our homeland."
Caption: At the entrance to Giv'ot Bar, one of the new communities being built outside of Be'er Sheva. L to R: JNF President Stanley Chesley; JNF Vice President of Campaign, Charles Fax; Director, Southern Region,KKL, Ami Uriel; JNF CEO Russell F. Robinson, Minister Ya'acov Edry, and Roni Flamer, CEO, Or Movement.