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Caravan homes
Photo by Rob Berkowits

Picking organic carrots with Moshe and colleagues Gail Grief, (JNF Eastern Region) Jon Nobleman (JNF Alberta) and Jessica Lawson (KKL).

Halutziot the day it was inaugurated. photo form Arutz Sheva Israle National News

Rob Berkowits


by Rhonda Spivak, December 20, 2011

JNF Executive Director Rob Berkowits was recently in Israel for his first time last month, and says that one of the many highlights of his trip was seeing the new community of Haluziot in the desert sands of the Negev, “which has been supported in avariety of ways by the JNF.” The name Halutziot comes from the Hebrew word for pioneer, Halutz.
The people who are living in Halutziot have seen their communities dismantled twice in thename of peace. They first lived in Yamitin Sinai, when their community was evacuated after the Peace Treaty with Egypt and then they started again when they built in Atzmona, Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip, from where they were evacuated in 2005. They are now building again from nothing for a third time.
JNF has supported Halutziot by developing the infrastructure needed in order to grow and develop. This has included the building of security roads in order to protect the new community.
 In plastic greenhouses the Israelis in Halutziot are reclaiming the desert sands metre by metre, miraculously growing carrots, artichokes, potatoes and in plastic greenhouses they are growing superb sweet peppers and lettuces. The people of Halutzit are dedicating their lives to making the reclaiming of the Negev a reality.
As Berkowits told the Winnipeg Jewish Review, “Residents in Halutziot begin by living in caravan homes until regular homes are built. Residents are generally either teachers at the newly built school or farmers. About 100 orthodox families currently live here…Two more phases are to be built”
At the inauguration ceremony of Halutziot , then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, "The future of the nation of Israel lies in the Negev."
 Berkowits said that the produce being grown there was an impressive achievement.
“It was quite a site as one side of the road has fantastic vegetation while the direct other side is desert. Two more phases are to be built. The community is in the middle of nowhere on route to the Negev. We observed KKL work being done right before our eyes.’
Berkowits added, “We toured a newly built school with Moshe Berniker. Moshe works for the community and handles public affairs and fundraising. The school building is complete but still requires landscaping
The school and dormitory will help Halutziot become an educational hub, providing an educational focus for the surrounding area. This, in turn, will attract new families to move into the communities because of the opportunities available.
While at Halutziot, Berkowits says “I also noticed an Israeli soldier at his man-made post (lawn chair and umbrella) facing the Egypt border.
The history of the Hulatza region in the Negev is interesting. While the Halutza region is indeed within Israel’s pre-1967 borders, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the entire region to PLO chairman Yassir Arafat at the failed Camp David summit in2000, in return for Israel’s retention of large settlement blocs built by Israel after 1967.
Meretz chairman and Barak-era justice minister Yossi Beilin explained that the offering of the Halutzia region by Barak as a land-swap with the Palestinians was “…simply the best alternative. Other areas [within Israel’s pre-1967 borders that we considered relinquishing] were too close to major population centers. At Camp David and the subsequent Taba talks we were quite close to reaching an agreement on such an exchange.”
Eppie Lilintal and her husband, who have nine children, works as a bookkeeper for the agricultural business of the community of Halutziot. Her husband programmes the computer software used to run the export side of the business
She told the JNF that “It’s like the land is waiting for us to discover its treasures and make it green. For us agriculture is very important because there are mitzvot which you can perform only in Israel and at the same time we are being productive and creating something. It's not just agriculture. We are planning project to harness solar energy, and expanding into areas of high tech. We also want to produce seeds, not just fruit," she says.
"My younger children love it here because they have so many friends to play with. The young families who joined us have brought many more young children into the community. It's been tougher for the older children. They miss their friends."
"We feel what is happening here is important for the people of Israel and the land of Israel. People are still calling us and asking to join. They are still coming. This is a community of good people -honest and young in spirit. Despite the fact that we have faced obstacles and continue to do so, we are moving ahead. We are always optimistic."
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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