By Beth Gluck | Jewish National Fund Southeast Regional Director
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, is the most awe-inspiring time of the year. It is when we look back on all that we have done the past year and plan and pray for all we hope to achieve in the year 5776.
As we begin this year, Jewish National Fund has big plans to continue to make a tangible and lasting difference in the lives of all the people of Israel by expanding on our missions to grow
communities, find water solutions and improve security.
In Israel’s northern and western Galilee, JNF is confronting the challenges facing a beautiful area that has experienced acute social and economic problems. We’ve recognized the area’s great potential, and with the government of Israel, municipalities, youth organizations, community leaders, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL), Nefesh B’Nefesh, the OR Movement, the Reut Institute and the Rashi Foundation, we have launched the Go North initiative.
Go North aims to attract and retain 300,000 new residents to the Galilee and invigorate the region with an increase in tourism, education, economic development, youth leadership and housing.
The Central Arava, a remote, arid region in southern Israel, is inhabited by just under 4,000 people —pioneers scattered through seven communities who contend with the harsh desert climate. Despite an average yearly rainfall of only 1 inch, 500 farming families in the Central Arava produce 60 percent of Israel’s fresh vegetable exports and 10 percent of its cut flower exports.
JNF is helping this isolated area increase its population by developing the infrastructure to attract and support new residents. Such initiatives include upgrading reservoirs and building a state-of-the-art medical facility and a rescue and command center. Physicians are moving to the area to staff the new medical center, and bed-and-breakfasts are drawing adventurous tourists from around the world who crave unique and magical desert stays.
For three decades, JNF has been at the forefront of water management and conservation in Israel, increasing the country’s total water supply by 12 percent and helping Israel become a leader in water recycling. JNF’s network of 250 recycled water reservoirs provides almost half the water used for agriculture in Israel, saving enough fresh water to meet the needs of 4.4 million people a year.
With JNF’s assistance, more than 85 percent of the sewage water in Israel is recycled and reused, the highest rate in the world. To put that into context, Spain comes in a distant second, reusing 17 percent of its waste water; the United States reuses 5 percent.
With a global water crisis upon us and Israel having gone from water-deprived to water-abundant, JNF is launching of a series of water summits, beginning in October.
At each summit, keynote speaker Seth M. Siegel, author of the soon-to-be-released book “Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World,” will discuss global water issues and Israel’s successes in water governance, infrastructure and technology. In addition, a panel of regional experts will confer on local challenges, and breakout sessions will bring participants together to formulate plans to meet long-term water needs.
Special in Uniform is an innovative program that aims to integrate youth with disabilities into the Israel Defense Forces and to assist in preparing them for careers after their army service. The IDF does more than ensure the security of Israel, as it also provides those who serve with valuable professional and social life skills. This program goes beyond IDF bases, helping its graduates integrate into the workforce and Israeli society in meaningful ways. This partnership with JNF will expand programming across the country, giving hundreds more the same opportunity.
As we enter 5776, we look to move closer to achieving our vision — a $1 billion road map for the next decade — which will continue to build a prosperous future for the land of Israel and its people. Whether you are a donor, a volunteer or a board member, we realize that it is only with your partnership and support that we can continue to meet and exceed these goals.
On behalf of Jewish National Fund, we wish you a happy, healthy and sweet new year.