Photo: Joshua Robbin MarksThe new JNF-Halutza Medical Center serving the residents of Shlomit.
The highlight of the action-packed JNFuture Ultimate Israel Experience tour this May was visiting the amazing communities of Halutza in the northwestern Negev.
Seeing these modern-day Zionist pioneers flourishing right next to Gaza and Egypt was proof of the success of Jewish National Fund's Blueprint Negev initiative to improve the quality of life in southern Israel and attract new residents to the region. The communities of Shlomit, Bnei Netzarim and Naveh were built for the Gush Katif residents evacuated from Gaza during the 2005 disengagement. These communities are rapidly developing to accommodate more families. We saw new homes, a synagogue, a community center under construction, greenhouses, crop fields, and solar farms. We also went on a tour of a new medical facility and took advantage of new trees recently planted to provide shade from the intense desert heat.
Photo: Joshua Robbin Marks
Yedidya Harush, JNF Halutza liaison for Negev community development, shows us the new dental clinic funded with the help of JNF USA.
At Halutza, we could see the Gaza border in the distance and were told there's a wall of trash that is lit on fire and carries pollution when the wind is blowing toward Halutza. We also learned that residents sometimes hear gunfire from Egypt where the Egyptian military is fighting terror cells in the Sinai Peninsula (according to recent reports, Egypt is having some success in reducing the terror threat).
|The author next to Iron Dome missiles|
used to shoot down Gaza rockets.
During our tour of Halutza, we visited a metal sculptor, Yaron Bob, who owns a business called Rockets into Roses that turns rockets into sculptures. He showed us the different types of rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza as well as Iron Dome missiles that Israel uses to shoot down the rockets before they land. Besides Qassam and other types of rockets and mortars, he showed us an upgraded Grad rocket that was fired from Gaza that was made in China and smuggled into Gaza by Iran.
Shortly after we left Halutza, there were reportedly incendiary balloons being launched from Gaza again.
חלוץ (Halutza) means "pioneer" in Hebrew. The families there are resilient and courageous. They are thriving despite dealing with Hamas to their west and ISIS to their south. With the help of JNF, they are reviving the original Zionist spirit of building Israel.