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The Arava Continues to Produce New Discoveries in the Desert


The Arava Continues to Produce
New Discoveries in the Desert

By: Tania Pons-Allon

In its 116 year history, Jewish National Fund has not only turned barren, unsown lands into forests and green hills, it also offers the people of Israel the opportunity to form a true connection to the land, by planting a tree and laying new roots in the soil of this still young nation.

In the Central Arava, a region located in the south of Israel along the Jordanian border between Be’er Sheva and Eilat, one will not find the vast pine and oak forests so commonly seen across central and northern Israel, but rather hothouses scattered between ridges and valleys. It is in those structures that the sweetest fruits and vegetables grow thanks to the most advanced techniques and high-tech methods available.

In a dry, parched region with less than 1-inch of rainfall a year, extreme climate, brackish water and barren land, the pioneers of the Arava set their minds to establish an agricultural dream—with JNF backing them all the way. Since the first days of the Arava’s settlement in the late 1950's, JNF has worked tirelessly to transform arid desolate soil into fertile gardens through research and development, and the hothouses and fields of the Central Arava are a true testament of JNF's "green thumb."

It is often said that the greatest creations are made when there are strict boundaries or challenges in place. This certainly holds true for the Central Arava, where despite restrictions and difficulties, farmers and researchers have managed to cultivate and adapt fruits and vegetables to the desert’s habitat, and even introduce new crops to local farmers.

Some of these innovative crops were on display at the recent Arava Open Day, an annual agricultural event and the largest agricultural exhibition in Israel, in the community of Hatzeva.

Throughout the Arava Open Day exhibition, Central Arava Research & Development scientists showcased some of the latest innovative produce to the public, such as:

  • Desert Raspberry—Unlike its well-known relative in the U.S. that thrives in cool weather, this raspberry thrives and grows better in the heat, which makes it ideal for the Arava, where it has grown accustomed to the local environment. The Desert Raspberry will be harvested and available direct from the Arava during the spring-summer seasons.
  • Flame Lily (Gloriousa)-A tropical flower usually sold during the summer was raised in the Arava’s desert climate for the first time, and thanks to the moderate winters of the region, this flower can be sold to European markets well before its usual time.
  • Spirulina food coloring extract-Spirulina, an algae known for its superfood qualities, has a distinct blue hue that is used as a natural pigment by the food coloring industry. R&D researchers have managed to not only acclimate the algae to desert conditions, but found a simple and easy extraction method necessary to attain the blue pigment.

These ‘alternative’ crops are expanding the variety of produce Arava farmers can grow, and as the agricultural market is constantly shifting and becoming unpredictable, it is the R&D researchers’ that continue exploring new and future crops that can further develop the Central Arava, making it an oasis in the desert.

Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion once said, "It is in the Negev that the creativity and the pioneering vigor of Israel shall be tested." In the Central Arava, the term "pioneering" is a flexible concept, and Ben Gurion's vision is being realized with every fruit or vegetable sprouting up through this desert’s sands.

Adam H. Brill,
Director of Communications

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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


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