Oct 12, 2020  By Gary Fayman  Category: Go North,

How artists are turning Israel's north into a thriving creative hotspot

Employment, culture, and education in Israel’s northern and southern regions are essential elements of Jewish National Fund’s Go North and Blueprint Negev initiatives.

To attract hundreds of thousands of people to the north and south, Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) works hand-in-hand with its affiliate, MAKOM, an organization that shares a similar mission to repopulate aspirational communities in the Negev and Galilee while strengthening the social fabric of Israel.

JNF-USA’s partners recently had a chance to hear firsthand from Gilli and Mor, Israeli artists who live in MAKOM’s Afula artist community. Afula’s residents  include talented producers, artists, and social entrepreneurs who consider it their Zionist mission to connect arts, education, and community building/renewal. 

The old market in Afula, which has been around for the past 50 years, is located in the middle of the city next to the central bus station. Back in the day, it was the place to be. Recently, supermarkets and shopping malls changed everything, largely due to offering the advantage of air conditioning in enclosed buildings over the intense heat of outdoor markets.

For many years, the outdoor market area was neglected, and many of the stores were closed. The area was soon plagued with drugs, crime, and gambling. Three years ago, Gilli, Mor, and their friend Sivan took matters into their own hands and created the community’s first cultural event -- it was highly successful, and a few stores from the municipality participated. It ended up being a renewal of the old market, which soon turned into an arts and cultural gathering site. 

These three young women turned two old stores from the municipality into a home for the local artist community. Galleries and exhibition spaces fill the inside while performance spaces fill the outside. The community soon began offering artist tours, integrating existing merchants, and putting on events. It’s an incredible story of how three young women went into a space and turned it into something new. As Gilli put it, they’re "inside the process, not after it."

Miss this talk? Watch it now on JNF On Demand.

With everything going on in the world, the U.S., and Israel, JNF-USA is reminding its donors that they’re cherished members of the organization’s family. In that spirit, the organization is helping the community feel connected, engaged, and inspired, through a new series of on-demand content. From space exploration to challah baking, there’s something for everyone at jnf.org/ondemand.