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Building New Housing and Brighter Futures in the Gaza Border Community of Erez

JNF Wire Report

Building New Housing and Brighter Futures
in the Gaza Border Community of Erez

By: Allison Levine

In a meaningful and celebratory event, the cornerstone was laid for the new neighborhood of Kibbutz Erez, a Gaza border community in Southern Israel. In attendance were Israel’s Minister of Construction Yoav Galant, MK Eitan Broshi, Chief Israel Officer for Jewish National Fund (JNF-USA) Eric Michaelson, JNF Vice President for Campaign Ken Segel, and JNF Chief Development Officer Rick Krosnick. In addition, regional officials and local kibbutz leaders as well as current kibbutz members, future residents of the new neighborhood, and local children gathered to mark this auspicious occasion. While growth in any community is cause for celebration, the location of this new neighborhood is significant as Kibbutz Erez sits on Israel’s tense border, facing the Gaza Strip.

“We are here to strengthen Israel’s border communities,” said Minister Galant at the ceremony. “This project in Erez is a remarkable opportunity for growth in this important region.” The new “Olive Neighborhood” will eventually comprise of 30 houses made possible by JNF’s Housing Development Fund, which is also involved in several other residential housing projects in the area. Today, 80% of Israel’s population lives in the center of the country. Looking for a better quality of life, good education options, and affordable housing, young families are relocating to the south, even to communities that sit along the border with Gaza.

Kibbutz Erez, which is part of the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council, is still mostly an agrarian community—with some manufacturing businesses in the mix—but at the same time, it has a significant role on the frontlines during rocket and other attacks from Gaza. “This is a momentous day for Erez and the area” said MK Broshi. “Even in the face of difficult times on the border, a decision was made to grow. What interests us is not just what has been, but what the future will be.”

“JNF is investing in the strategic security of Israel,” said Segel. “Expanding this community and strengthening this area is a key part of JNF’s Billion Dollar Road Map, and the vital campaign to move 300,000 people to the Galilee and 500,000 to the Negev.” Providing housing options in Southern Israel is key to helping families make the move to the Negev, and the successful launch of JNF’s Housing Development Fund and project in Erez shows that despite the potential dangers involved in living on the Gaza border, families are still coming.

2nd from L-R: Alon Schuster, Mayor of Shaar Hanegev Regional Council; JNF Chief Israel Officer Eric Michaelson; Israeli Minister of Construction Yoav Galant; JNF Chief Development Officer Rick Krosnick; and JNF Vice President of Campaign Kenneth Segel.

During the day’s celebration, an opportunity was given to the gathered crowd to write notes of well wishes for the community’s future and to place them in a jug being buried as part of the neighborhood’s cornerstone. All 30 houses have waiting families, both second- or third-generation Kibbutz Erez families, but also new families that have relocated to Israel’s south. The area is green, with many fields and orchards, and at this time of the year it is also lush with spring flowers. The feeling of growth and renewal is evident everywhere.

“The success of this and other projects in the area tells us that demand for housing outside of Israel’s center is on the rise,” said Krosnick. “We need to continue to work to meet the housing demand, and at the same time we are building up border communities to help the country’s security.”

“For me, as a JNF board member and as a donor to JNF’s Housing Development Fund, it’s incredible to be standing here so close to Gaza, and at the same time seeing that people want to come live here. It’s a real sense of pride not just in witnessing the housing project happen, but specifically because people are making the active choice to come live in the south.”

“JNF brought the necessary funding at the right time to make this project possible,” added Galant.

Looking ahead into the future, Michaelson said: “The potential number of projects and residential units JNF’s Housing Development Fund would be able to push through, given sufficient funding, is staggering. JNF is proud to be the catalyst behind the launching of this project. We are looking to build on our success here and gather additional support to expand and do even more for the region.”

Gazing out over the construction site underway, the focus on the minds of those present was not only on the “Olive Neighborhood” at Kibbutz Erez, but also on the need for future housing projects and development in Israel’s flourishing Negev Desert. There’s a lot of work still to do.

Contact:
Adam H. Brill,
Director of Communications
abrill@jnf.org

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JEWISH NATIONAL FUND (JNF) began in 1901 as a dream and vision to reestablish a homeland in Israel for Jewish people everywhere. Jews the world over collected coins in iconic JNF Blue Boxes, purchasing land and planting trees until ultimately, their dream of a Jewish homeland was a reality. JNF gives all generations of Jews a unique voice in building a prosperous future for the land of Israel and its people.

JNF embodies both heart and action; our work is varied in scope but singular in benefit. We strive to bring an enhanced quality of life to all of Israel’s residents, and translate these advancements to the world beyond. JNF is greening the desert with millions of trees, building thousands of parks, creating new communities and cities for generations of Israelis to call home, bolstering Israel’s water supply, helping develop innovative arid-agriculture techniques, and educating both young and old about the founding and importance of Israel and Zionism.

JNF is a registered 501(c)(3) organization and United Nations NGO, which continuously earns top ratings from charity overseers.

For more information on JNF, call 888-JNF-0099 or visit www.jnf.org.

 

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