Last week the Israeli government signed an agreement with the municipality of Ofakim, one of our partner communities, to build 14,436 new housing units in four residential neighborhoods in the next decade. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the celebratory event and declared, “The Negev is going through a revolution and is turning into the new ‘center’ of Israel.”
Thirty percent of the new housing built will be small units, suitable for singles of young couples. The agreement is expected to double the population of the city, which now numbers about 30,000 people. Within the next year, a projected 3,200 apartment will be sold.
As part of the agreement, funds will be invested in developing the southern industrial zone in order to create new employment channels for Ofakim residents. There will also be an investment in building infrastructure and supporting “Old vs. New” projects within the framework of urban renewal, including construction of the Ofakim-Yemen road enabling commuters to get from Ofakim to Be’er Sheva in less than 15 minutes. New kindergartens, an elementary school for nature and environment, and a youth unit will be established, as well as a government complex to house branches of the various government ministries, an arts center, and a sports complex (a new stadium, a sports hall with athletics tracks, a country complex with outdoor and indoor pools, a spa, gymnasiums, a miniature golf course, and a mini-pitch court).
The agreement is intended to provide the local municipality with the means and the necessary government support for the construction of huge neighborhoods with thousands of housing units. Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon made it clear at the signing ceremony that “This overall agreement will also have a clear preference for selling units to the local residents, people that grew up in Ofakim.”
According to Amir Shacham, our Associate Vice President of Global Connections, “When we started our partnership with Ofakim in 1996 it was one of the poorest towns in Israel and with the highest rate of unemployment. We decided that the best way we could assist it would be by investing in the human capital – developing the self-esteem and patriotism of the community; improving the educational, social, and cultural wellbeing in town; and creating grass roots civic society. The connection with our Federation through JAFI’s Partnership Together program really set the foundation for this huge historic development. Now that the Negev is progressing so dramatically, Ofakim is ready to grow.”
Ofakim Mayor Itzik Danino added that, “The signing of the overall agreement between the government and Ofakim is a declaration of commitment by the government to Ofakim, the Negev, and its residents… The development of the Negev benefits us but also serves a national goal. I believe that Ofakim is on its way to becoming an independent and prosperous city, thanks to the many investments.”