Jewish National Fund Chairman of the Board-Emeritus Ronald S. Lauder Continues to Build on Ben Gurion’s Dream of Making the Negev the Future

JNF-USA/Staff Report

Jewish tradition often tells of the wisdom of Biblical prophets, whose divine messages helped change the course of Jewish society.  While the age of prophets has long since ended, the seemingly clairvoyant mission of one of Israel’s most iconic founders, David Ben-Gurion, is quickly coming to fruition.  In his 1955 speech, “The Significant of the Negev,” Ben Gurion boldly pronounced that “It is in the Negev that the creativity and pioneer vigor of Israel will be tested, and this will be a crucial test.”  Ben Gurion believed so adamantly in this mission that he became the first and only Prime Minister to build his home in the Negev.  Over 60 years later, another visionary Jewish leader has taken the steps to make the future of the Negev more attainable by providing the tools and opportunity for a whole new generation.

Ronald S. Lauder, Chairman of the Board-Emeritus of Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF), is putting his ideas to action in continuing Ben Gurion’s dream.  In 2015, together with JNF, Ben Gurion University and Eretz Ir, Lauder opened the Lauder Employment Center (LEC) in Be’er Sheva. The Center operates with the explicit objective to help build the local economy and provide new opportunities for graduates to build their careers and lives in the Negev.  For Lauder, the critical problem was that "a large segment of university graduates do not remain in the Negev after the completion of their studies due to a lack of challenging jobs.  This reality can be changed through an employment horizon and employment opportunities that we will offer graduates, in cooperation with industry and business leaders."

Today, three years following its inaugural opening ceremony, Ronald Lauder proudly joined over 30 representatives from businesses throughout the region, working with the Lauder Employment Center, to unveil the new Lauder Club, an incubator and networking space for employers, students, and young professionals from all over the Negev.  

Operating under the leadership of Jewish National Fund, Eretz Ir and the Lauder Employment Center has supported over 2,500 young adults and students in the Negev over the last year alone, with over 300 students integrating into top companies located in the Negev.  

“We would like to see that tens of thousands of young adults are remaining in the Negev, because they have found quality jobs,” said Tamar Gil, Director of Partnerships at Eretz Ir.
“We will help them take the first step to connect them with the employers and building their network, but then they can enjoy the life that JNF’s Blueprint Negev is all about.” Through the Lauder Center, Eretz-Ir develops innovative solutions and tri-sector partnerships to promote quality and diversity of employment opportunities in the Negev.  By bringing together top employers, and providing tools for the Negev’s future leaders from local academic institutions, Eretz Ir is paving the way for regional economic and personal professional development.

The Lauder Employment Center is a central component in JNF’s Blueprint Negev, a comprehensive strategy for bringing 500,000 new residents to the Negev.  “We are fortunate to be sitting in the cyber capital of the world.” Eric Michaelson, JNF Chief Israel Officer proudly stated, “but fortune favors the bold.  And, in this case it is also someone with the passion to care. Ronald Lauder, you are a pillar of the Jewish people and of Israel.”

Standing at the front of the beautiful, modern Lauder Club building, Ronald Lauder challenged the employers in attendance: “The question is, what can be done?  This is the only first step.  The Negev should be a center for technology for the future.”


Lauder’s love for the Negev is so strong that, like Ben Gurion, he is building a home in Be’er Sheva, directly across from the Employment Center.  For the residents, students, employers, and leaders of Be’er Sheva and surrounding communities in the Negev, the new expansion of the Lauder Employment Center and continued growth and investment of Ronald Lauder and JNF, opens the door to endless possibilities and successful growth for what is quickly becoming the future hub of Israeli innovation.

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