The Sapphire Society has put this action area at the forefront of their initiatives realizing that providing infrastructure and resources for communities is essential for affecting the quality of life in the Negev. This mission has been demonstrated through our involvement in the following projects:
The Sapphire Society’s keystone project and first ever campaign supported the infrastructure for the housing at Zuqim, a new community in the Negev, to help fulfill David Ben Gurion’s vision of greening the desert. The community of Zuqim was founded in 1999 in the Arava region of the Negev and was the first new non-agricultural community in the Negev in the past quarter century. Through the support of the society, Zuqim is poised to become the standard for diverse community development in the Negev. Since 2000,
The Sapphire Society has raised millions of dollars to support Zuqim's infrastructure for housing thereby supporting its tourism and commerce.
Founded in 1985, Shomriya is a secular kibbutz of 13 families located about twenty minutes from Be’er Sheva. Desperately in need of revitalization, the kibbutz developed a master plan to expand an additional 90 plots of land. In addition, they believed there was the need to offer an intermediate option for people to come and settle in the Negev. Offering homes as annual rentals to those who are in the decision making process is an excellent means of attracting many new families to the area. In response, The Sapphire Society funded the renovation and beautification of eight existing houses in the “old” neighborhood and built a playground for the children of the kibbutz.
Aleh Negev Adult Rehabilitative Village is home to 220 residential disabled adults and provides outpatient services to over 12,000 children and young adults. Aleh Negev not only offers the best care available but has a strong commitment to creating beautiful surroundings for its residents and encouraging them to spend ample time outdoors. The Sapphire Society funded therapeutic landscaping for the extended living area at Aleh Negev.
The Sapphire Society funded a full sized fire truck for the Negev. The fire truck will serve the increasing population in the Negev for all of its firefighting needs.
The Sapphire Society values Research and Development in the Negev because it helps strengthen the bond between Israelis and the land of Israel. The research conducted not only helps to “grow the region” by allowing for new innovative ways to bring diversity to the desert but provides the small, independent farmer in the Negev with answers to their everyday problems of drought, nutrition or insect infestation. The Sapphire Society has invested in the Yair Research and Development Laboratory, giving it the financial ability to add a laboratory and scientific equipment to accommodate new jobs for newly immigrated scientists.
Realizing the need to dramatically increase Israel’s water resources in the Negev, water management projects, supported by The Sapphire Society, have never been more critical to Israel’s survival. These efforts help alleviate Israel’s annual water deficit.
One of the main water projects undertaken in this area by The Sapphire Society is the enlargement of the Zuqim Water Reservoir to ensure that residents of Zuqim, our keystone project, have appropriate water resources as well as meeting the needs of the increased population to the Southern Negev.
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Education in every form is vital to the growth of any community. The Sapphire Society believes in the need to support education throughout the Negev by funding diverse programs such as:
The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, situated on Kibbutz Ketura, serves as a non-profit regional center for conservation and environmental protection activities and offers a collegiate program that promotes mutual understanding through environmental education. The Sapphire Society provided students with scholarships to attend this unique institution so they can engage in environmental studies while living amongst a diverse group of students including Jews, Arabs and other nationalities. In addition, The Sapphire Society recently funded the construction of a new building as part of a larger campus revitalization plan.
The Sapphire Society partnered with the Merchavim Elementary School to teach students, the future of Israel, to ecologically maintain their land, otherwise known as “sustainable development.” The students participated in building an outdoor bird sanctuary to provide educational observation for future generations of students attending the school.
The Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center at Kibbutz Grofit provides rehabilitation to children with physical, emotional and mental disabilities through therapeutic horse riding. The Sapphire Society’s ongoing support for these after-school programs has not only enabled over 100 children in the area to benefit from this therapy, when they otherwise would not have had the opportunity, but also has provided hope and encouragement to families in the Negev.
The “Jewish Ecological Community of Kibbutz Lotan” is a kibbutz that is at the forefront of Israel’s efforts to promote ecological sustainability and focuses on water conservation, forestation and environmental/ecological education. The Sapphire Society funded the educational walking paths at Kibbutz Lotan’s newly created eco-Park. The eco-Park serves both residents and eco-tourists.
Lotem Integrated Nature Studies is the leading organization in Israel for guiding hikes and other activities in nature for the special needs population including children, adolescents, families, disabled IDF veterans and many others. Lotem is strategically located to be able to use Nahal Ha Shover, the prototype park for the JNF Inclusive Parks Program. The Sapphire Society funded “A Touring School,” a program of 10 monthly trips to enrich the participants’ curriculum.
The Sapphire Society provides families with special needs the ability to enjoy social life together. The goal of the Inclusive Parks Program is to convert existing parks and recreational sites in Israel to inclusive facilities as well as incorporating those needs into all new parks/playgrounds. In compliance with The Sapphire Society mission statement all of these projects will be done within the Negev.
Ofakim Park, 30 miles west of Be’er Sheva, is utilized by the greater Be’er Sheva community. The Sapphire Society funded this first inclusive playground, which is used by children and adults with and without handicaps.
Park Ha’roa is a recreation and picnic area across from Ben Gurion’s home at Kibbutz Sde Boker. It is used both by tourists and by truck drivers as an overnight stop. The Sapphire Society helped fund the park’s renovation which included a new entrance, a road leading to the site, a parking lot for cars and buses, accessibility for people with disabilities, a cooking area, additional gardening, a sleeping area and lighting. The new campground provides an important need while minimally impacting the environment.
Be'er Hazerim Recreation Area extends over 15 dunams and is bordered on the south by a mature eucalyptus grove. The Sapphire Society helped restore the focus of the recreation area, the remains of an old chain-bucket well. Additionally, The Sapphire Society helped develop the site to be both appealing to tourists and accessible for people with disabilities. Mature fruit trees were transplanted to recreate the effect of the ancient orchards that once covered the site and a special accessible section will be developed in the recreation area.
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The Sapphire Society continues to stay true to the JNF mandate in responding to the urgent needs of the land and people of Israel. The Sapphire General Fund is used to supplement all of the above action areas as well as other projects that the Sapphire Society takes on.
The Sapphire Society's membership has always focused on how we can best meet the needs of Israelis. In May of 2002, our Executive Cabinet voted unanimously to join JNF's efforts to provide for the security needs of Israelis by adopting the Malkiyah-Avivim Security Road. These bypass routes are essential to providing security that affords Israeli families with the quality of life they require. The Sapphire Society raised funds for two miles of the security road along the Lebanese border, The Malkiyah-Avivim Security Road that now enables 1500 children to go to and from school safely each day.
The Sapphire Society supported Operation Northern Renewal by planting two Sapphire Society Forests in an effort to fulfill its goal of replanting over one million trees destroyed by rocket fire during the Lebanese War of 2006
JNF Moms for Israel, a campaign taken on by the JNF Women’s Campaign for Israel, aims to help give the children of Sderot respite from daily attacks and bomb shelters by sending them to a five-day summer camp. The Sapphire Society’s contribution to JNF Moms for Israel has given these children the chance to be kids, alleviated some of their mothers’ stress and helped put a smile back on Sderot’s residents’ faces.
The Sapphire Society has committed to contributing funds to the Sderot Indoor Rec Center, the largest indoor playground in Israel, which officially opened in May 2009. To protect Sderot’s children, the playground is fortified to the rigorous standards of the Israel Defense Forces. This all inclusive playground, exercise and recreational facility for children age 16 and under provides Sderot’s youth with a place to have fun, connect with friends and be children, beyond the conflict. And parents will have peace of mind knowing that their children are playing in an environment that is safe and secure. It is estimated that the Sderot Indoor Playground will be used by 20,000 people a year. It will attract visitors from around the area and be a point of pride for the State of Israel.
A memorial to Jewish female heroism at the Women of Valor Center will serve as an education center where visitors and school children learn about the contributions of female Jewish soldiers. Kibbutz Nitzanim is a site that embodies female heroism of past and present; it is the location where three women from the War of Independence fought valiantly to their deaths in order to protect the kibbutz and where today many female members of the Israeli Army receive their berets. The Sapphire Society has committed to investing in the memorial and when completed, it will include a hall named for Mira Ben-Ami (one of the fallen fighters), an amphitheater, a memorial wall, a field school for environmental classes and a cafeteria. Nitzanim is set to become the central address of The Sapphire Society in Israel.
Despite its historical significance and importance to southern Israel, many see Be’er Sheva, home to 250,000 residents, as a backwater, culturally and geographically isolated from the miracle of modern Israel. The centerpiece of our efforts to revitalize Be’er Sheva is the creation of the Be’er Sheva Riverwalk, a massive water, environment and economic development project that will transform the riverfront into a 900-acre civic paradise. The Sapphire Society has committed to funding plans which include cleaning up the river that intersects the city from east to west, creating a park and an artificial lake, planting trees and developing trails. JNF plans to use its expertise in water rehabilitation to recycle the city’s water and transport it to the lake. The water will be recycled, stored, and then sent down the dry riverbed year round as clean water for recreation. The creation of a thriving waterfront district will attract new businesses and entice visitors passing through the city to stop, relax, and enjoy a wealth of possibilities for family recreation.
Green Horizons (Hugey Sayarut) is the premier youth organization working with Israel’s youth, to teach them environmentalism, and, in the process, bind them spiritually to the land in which they live. One of Green Horizons’ aims is to build future environmental leaders. There are chapters in 180 schools around Israel, and each includes students in grades five through ten.JNF has partnered with Green Horizons for the past three years. Working with the youth of Beit She’an, a community of 15,700 of which forty percent are 19 years of age or younger, JNF has cultivated a real attachment to the physical world around them. The Sapphire Society has invested in setting up new chapters of Hugey Sayarut in the schools of Beit She’an. The hope is that these experiences with environmentalism will impact each child after they return home from the army and university, to invest in the future of their community.
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