JNF Blueprints the Negev
More than 6 million Israelis live on 8,000 acres less than Nebraska plants in wheat alone.
With Israel’s population now at 6.6 million, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) is looking toward the Negev for Israel’s future.
JNF President Ronald S. Lauder outlined a plan to turn the Negev into a lush, friendly, profitable community filled with houses, jobs, and educational opportunities. The Negev “would become home to an additional 250,000 people,” Lauder said in an ad that ran in a February issue of The International Jerusalem Post.
So far the arid, inhospitable desert is the only area the Palestinians aren’t clamoring for. The Negev’s 5,292 square miles receive an average rainfall of only four inches a year. Consequently, only 8 percent of Israel’s population lives there, while 92 percent lives on the remaining 34 percent of the land. The result is a population density ratio in Israel proper of around 2,226 people per square mile on non-Negev land, compared with 80 people per square mile in the United States, for example. (These figures exclude Judea, Samaria, and the Golan and the population there.) Thus single-family houses are extremely rare, and all housing is expensive.
With Jewish Gaza gone and the world pressing Israel to relinquish the land it captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, the tiny country has nowhere to go but the Negev.
JNF’s project, called Blueprint Negev, “is essential to Israel’s future,” Lauder said, hoping to inspire the Jewish people “to be 21st century pioneers and to once again be part of a nation under creation.”
- On the drawing board are: $300 million in projects to transform Beersheva, the “capital” of the Negev, into a “bustling metropolis.”
- 25 new communities, of which seven are already established.
- A $10 million central park, with a 3,000-seat amphitheater and recycled water reservoirs.
- A 25-acre world–class, residential, rehabilitative village to provide paramedical, therapeutic, and special education services to more than 200 residential adults with disabilities and 12,000 disabled children and young adults as outpatients.
Lauder said Blueprint Negev would also help the estimated 170,000 desert-dwelling Bedouin, who suffer 90 percent unemployment and have extremely low medical and educational standards. “Opening up the Negev economically will positively impact their future as well. This is a vision for all of Israel,” he said.