The State of Israel and the Jewish National Fund – Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) consider the development of the Negev a top priority in the regional strategies for this decade. Most of the Negev is allocated for nature reserves and for training ground for the Israel Defense Forces. Due to the rapid development of Israeli high-tech, there is an even greater need for open space for commercial and residential development in the Southern Israel. One of these development projects is to build an IDF Training Base called Ir Bahadim, located just 30 km south from the city of Beer Sheva.

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WMC 2012 participants with IDF soldiers at Bahadim City.

This project, which includes the transfer of the training bases in Tzrifin and central Israel to a new and improved army training base, is a major part of the plan to move the IDF to the Negev, which is to be implemented over the next ten years. According to the IDF, the plan to move the bases is of national importance. The move of tens of thousands of soldiers and officers to the south creates directly and indirectly a great deal of new jobs, which are precious for the desert region. As a result of the increased economic activity, the entire region will flourish.

On March 18, as participant of the KKL-JNF World Marketing Conference 2012, I had the opportunity to take part in the inauguration of the new recreational park of the Ir Bahadim training base that is currently under construction. It was a pleasant and beautiful afternoon despite the windy, cool weather. We were all excited to plant the first trees, a sign of reclaiming the desert, planting trees of life in the yellow Negev desert.

The ceremony took place near the HaNegev Junction that connects the base to the main artery that runs from Beer Sheva to Mitzpe Ramon. The brief speeches of IDF staff, KKL-JNF representatives and representatives of the local regional councils were full of enthusiasm and genuine joy. There was no doubt that the project wouldn’t have a significant impact on the regional development.

Tractor at Bahadim City/Yoav Devir

Having green recreational areas in the middle of the desert is an important part of living, and will certainly increase the attractiveness of the Ir Bahadim training base. According to the plans, for instance, a bicycle trail will be constructed near the base. The path will end at a visitors’ center that will be constructed with KKL-JNF for the general public. The center, which is located near the base entrance, will serve as a meeting spot for soldiers and their families.

When the base is finished, it will be the greenest in Israel, according to the civilian environmental standards. The base will be efficient in the energy use and will utilize solar power, the source of renewable energy that is plentiful in the Negev. In addition, the recycled water from the wastewater treatment plant will be used in irrigation for agriculture.

The level of environmental awareness, and the level of development impressed me. The ceremony was a nice way of reminding us about the importance of the green environment that we so often take for granted. Even in a military base you need a green and sustainable environment.

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