Monday, November 4, 2013


As those who read this Blog and the very few attending the GA know, JFNA canceled a Mission-like "Day in the Negev" -- a "day" to see, apparently, all that the federations (other than those invested in the Negev through P2gether) (what a brilliant brand) aren't doing in the Negev and the rest of the South of Israel. This was a wise choice by JFNA.

But it is also appropriate for us to understand that while JFNA organizes professional planning work groups and spins its wheels, producing "talking points" and "here's what we'll (probably) do if you send us more money" and other non-things, there is a great deal happening -- just not by JFNA (though, as you will read, there are connections).

Let's start with the Jewish National Fund and its work in Be'er Sheva. Most of us have visited Be'er Sheva, some have marveled at its potential as the Gateway to Israel's Negev, many would call it Israel's future. While most of us "marvel," JNF's leaders saw potential and acted. With the people of Be'er Sheva, JNF developed a Vision through Blueprint Negev that includes:

More than $30 million has already been invested in a city that dates
back to the time of Abraham. For years Be’er Sheva was an economically depressed and
forgotten city. Enough of a difference has been made to date that private developers have
taken notice and begun to invest their own money. New apartment buildings have risen, with
terraces facing the riverbed that in the past would have looked away. A slew of single family
homes have sprung up, and more are planned.
Attracted by the River Walk, the biggest mall in Israel and the first “green” one in the
country is
being built by The Lahav Group, a private enterprise, and will contribute to the city’s communal
life and all segments of the population. The old Turkish city is undergoing a renaissance, with
gaslights flanking the refurbished cobblestone streets and new restaurants, galleries and stores
opening. This year, the municipality of Be’er Sheva is investing millions of dollars to renovate the
Old City streets and support weekly cultural events and activities. And the Israeli government
just announced nearly $40 million to the River Park over the next seven years.
Serious headway has been made on the 1,700-acre Be’er Sheva River Park, a central park
and waterfront district that is already transforming the city. JNF funds have:
Built and opened 7 out of 15 kilometers of the beautiful promenade;
Reinforced the riverbanks to hold back the flood waters that rush through five days a year;
Removed tons of garbage from the riverbed which had been used as a dump;
Begun to renovate the historical site of Beit Eshel, an original Be’er Sheva outpost, which
will bring to life and educate tourists about the War of Independence;
Completed a recycled water system for park irrigation;
Built Bell Park, the first central park in the city, with JNF Canada;
Developed educational programs with three area schools through our partner Society for
the Protection of Nature in Israel;
Developed a $4 million plan for the renovation and promotion of Abraham’s Well funded
by the estate of May Mann;
Funded a feasibility study on bringing water to the river year-round;
Planned the Pipes Bridge, which will disguise the water pipes used to funnel water into the
city, create a scenic recreational spot, and connect the park to the Old City.
Planned the 20-acre lake and 10,000-seat amphitheatre;
There is nothing wrong with JFNA  twiddling its fingers while others do God's work. After all we only have 27 staffers in our Israel Office -- they hardly have enough time to accomplish anything. 

And, just to be clear, the person who told me of this incredible work is our friend Russell Robinson, JNF CEO and President, once a great fund raiser and creative source at the United Jewish Appeal...that's the UJA.

And, that's not all that is going on in Israel's South or in Be'er Sheva for that matter. There, one of Israel's great Universities is at work "transforming Be'er Sheva into Israel's next high tech center." At its recently dedicated Advanced Technologies Park, Ben Gurion University as BGU continues up the path toward becoming part of Israel's new Silicon Valley. 

There is nothing wrong with JFNA twiddling its fingers while others do God's work. After all they have 27 staffers in our Israel Office -- they hardly have time to accomplish anything.

And, just to be clear, the professional spearheading the fund raising in America for American Associates Ben Gurion University is our friend Doron Krakow, once SVP at JFNA, and now doing brilliant work as Executive Director of American Friends BGO of the Negev. Russell Robinson and Doron Krakow, once senior professionals of our national organizations, now leading the efforts of other organizations in nation- and institution-building in Israel.

And, JFNA? Well, we probably don't even know what JNF and BGU and others are doing in Israel's South. We're busy; don't you know anything?



Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if Jerry and Beck even know where Beersheva is!

paul jeser said...

And.. the work that Mel Bloom does with Technion, Eric Levine with
Touro... the list goes on and on...