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Central Arava

About the Central Arava

The Central Arava is an arid desert region in southern Israel that is considered the most peripheral and remote part of the country. It is located along the Jordanian border between the Dead Sea and Red Sea, about 80 miles from the nearest cities of Be’er Sheva and Eilat.

The Central Arava Regional Council’s jurisdiction covers more than 370,000 acres—approximately 6% of Israel’s total land mass—but one that is inhabited by just 3,300 people scattered throughout seven communities. The region is characterized by sharp climate occurrences, extreme topographical conditions, water scarcity, and dramatic natural beauty. Due to the lack of natural resources, industry, and employment opportunities, the primary source of income for residents is sophisticated agriculture. Roughly 500 farming families (out of 830) produce 60% of Israel’s fresh vegetable exports and 10% of its cut flower exports, despite an average yearly rainfall of only one inch.

Residents of the Central Arava face many challenges, including the harsh desert climate, the large distance between communities (approximately an hour’s drive separates the most southern community from the most northern), and the lack of accessibility to resources available in urban centers. The increase in elderly and infant populations, along with research and community development opportunities as well as the need to attract more families to the area, requires many new facilities to grow the entire region.

As part of its Blueprint Negev campaign to make the Negev habitable to the next generation of Israel’s residents, Jewish National Fund (JNF) has partnered with the Central Arava’s Regional Council in its effort to double the population of the region over the next decade. The Arava region in not only a unique agricultural area, but it also offers many benefits not available in central Israel: a peaceful way of life, being close to nature and a strong connection to the land and community.

Campaign goal: $21 million

Accomplishments to Date

In partnership with the Central Arava Regional Council and the Israeli government, JNF built a world-class medical center in Sapir, the regional center, to replace the dilapidated 40-year-old clinic and provide quality care in a professional environment. The medical center can meet the urgent care needs of up to 6,000-8,000 people. The medical center was created to bring the Central Arava’s health services and emergency care up to par with Israel’s large population centers, to provide medical services to a growing elderly population and prevent them from moving out of the region in search of adequate care, and to attract a new population to the Arava, including young people who grew up there and want to return after the army.

Arava International Center for Agricultural Training (AICAT)

Located in Sapir, the regional service center for Central Arava, AICAT aims to establish itself as the national and international leading authority in sophisticated arid lands agricultural studies and training and is a central platform for global collaborations in the agriculture arena. AICAT provides not only an invaluable contribution to developing countries and their students who attend it, but also provides additional workplaces for residents and extra working hands to the local agricultural industry. Under a single roof, with a multitude of cultures and shared human attributes, students receive professional agricultural training and live a unique experience that enables them to discover their capabilities and the means for fulfi lling their potential. Over the years the Center has received students from various Asian countries, including Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal, Vietnam, Laos, Philippines, India, Ethiopia, Southern Sudan, Jordan and Tibet. As the number of participating countries increases and the center becomes the global hub for agricultural training, the student population will more than triple over the next five years bringing the need for a larger campus. Donate now

    The Need:
  • Expansion of current teaching facilities to meet growing needs: in 2010, there were 550 students; in September 2013 there were 1000 students.
  • Development of a detailed plan for a new campus to accommodate 2000 students by 2018.


One third of Central Arava’s population is children. However, this region lacks sufficient education facilities for children going into kindergarten. In order to provide education services for pre-K, the new mandatory age for kindergarten based upon a recent law, three new teaching facilities have to be built immediately in three different moshavim: Paran, Zuqim and Hatzeva. Central Arava’s high birth rate (more than 350 babies born in the past 5 years) raises the need to plan for the near future and to adjust the education system to the growing needs of its population. Donate now

    The Need:
  • By September of 2013 with the new school year beginning, there is a need for three new kindergartens to begin educating the growing number of children.

Community Development

Central Arava intends to attract new residents to the region, providing them with opportunities for sustainable living. This endeavor will include community expansions in all the Moshavim (cooperative farming communities) for mostly non-farming families, creating housing, occupational, and entrepreneurship opportunities in order to double the region’s population within a decade. With residential expansion hindered by bureaucratic constraints, JNF is undertaking a new development initiative that will allow for faster and more stable growth of communities throughout Central Arava. The region will be preserved as a communal and ecological reserve, where innovative agriculture is developed in the desert, thus positioning Central Arava as a national role model in community development. Donate now

    The Need:
  • Community expansion of 112 housing and occupational units at Ein Yahav.


Central Arava is not connected to Israel’s national water system and is supplied only by local drillings and JNF-built reservoirs. Precipitation is one inch annually and the arid climate produces little or no dew. These are extreme conditions under which farmers operate and thrive and produce 60% of Israel’s fresh vegetable exports. Central Arava farmers currently use reservoirs to retain flood water for the region; however, domestic water-use has historically been problematic with farmers reliant mostly on brackish water that doesn’t meet Ministry of Health standards. To that end, the Central Arava regional council and JNF are funding the necessary endeavor to bring new fresh water to the residents. Donate now

    The Need:
  • A comprehensive water communal delivery system for desalinated water.

Command & Control Center

Smart development of the Arava depends on the region’s ability to provide basic public services to its current and future residents. JNF will build a rescue center, adjacent to the Medical Center. The need for this type of facility has become even more necessary in light of the rise of ISIS in Jordan. The Central Arava Command & Control Center will serve as a central command station for the area, housing both police and fire personnel, gathering all essential emergency units, allowing a more coordinated, efficient, prompt and functional response to any urgent event or crisis. This facility will be ready to operate professionally in case of a war, earthquake, fire, or any significant and critical event that endangers the lives of the residents. Donate now

    The Need:
  • Development of the command and control center.

Research & Development

The Central Arava Research & Development (R & D) is one of a network of regional agricultural R & D stations in Israel sponsored by JNF where leading scientists and technicians work closely with local farmers, research institutes and universities to increase agricultural sustainability, profitability, and stability. The cutting-edge expertise developed at these stations keep farmers at the forefront of their field, providing them with innovative, cost-effi cient ways to grow produce under arid conditions and allowing them to compete in the global market. The region’s R & D creates new methods to improve and optimize agricultural activities carried out under desert conditions including: development of salt-tolerant cultivars; evaluation of new crops; development of organic crops; expanding local aquaculture scope; biological pest management; production of desert medicinal plants for neurological diseases such as ALS; advising farmers; and carrying out agribusiness statistics. Its seven sector centers concentrate on: vegetables, ornamentals, plant-protection, orchards, organic agriculture, fishery, and produce quality. Donate now

    The Need:
  • R & D programs and facilities.

Elder Care

The nearest senior citizen services to Central Arava are at least 90 miles away in any direction and with a third of the residents over the age of 60, new facilities for the elderly need to be developed. The demographics of the region make this issue particularly pressing: in 15 years, 25% of the Arava population will be over the age of 75. Donate now

    Future Need:
  • While the senior citizen population increases, the need for elder care will continue to grow, with a focus on development of independent senior housing and nursing facilities.

Swimming Complex and Recreation Facility

A covered swimming pool complex in Sapir will function as a year-round facility for residents and visitors alike and serve the 650 school children, a dozen kindergartens, be used as a training facility for athletes and major competitors, community center groups, adults, aging members of the community, competing swimming teams, foreign workers, summer camps, field schools and national Israeli school outings. Donate now

    Future Need:
  • A covered and air conditioned complex is in its developmental stage.

For individual major gifts and information on designated projects, contact Tali Tzour at 212.879.9305 ext. 241

Get involved and Donate to Central Arava. For naming opportunities call your local office at 888-JNF-0099.


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