In the arid plains of the northeast Negev Desert, the Beduin village of Hura is
one step closer to becoming home to a blossoming eco-village rife with flora and
fauna, as well as renewable energy.
All those involved with the Wadi
Attir Project celebrated the completion of its “preparation phase” on Thursday,
in a ceremony jointly held near the village by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael- Jewish
National Fund, the Hura Municipal Council and the nonprofit organization Wadi
Initiated by the municipal council and the US-based Sustainability
Laboratory five years ago, the project aims to establish an ecological farm that
can become “a model for sustainable, community-based agricultural enterprise” in
an arid environment, according to KKL-JNF, which joined in the project at its
Upon completion, the approximately 40-hectare (99-acre) site
will sit adjacent to Road 31 near Hura, at a junction that connects the roads
leading to Arad and the Dead Sea. Upon completion, the first of two parts of the
site will include about 22 irrigated hectares, of which 7 hectares will include
cultivated medicinal plants and indigenous vegetables. The remaining 15 hectares
in that zone will be divided into three equal subplots for open
In the second area, 13 hectares will go to facilities such as
animal pens, a dairy center, an administrative building, a visitor’s center, a
training facility, a compost site, a solar energy production site and a
recycling plant. Meanwhile, 5 hectares in that second area will likewise become
a free grazing range.
The project has been made possible by a wide range
of partners, such as a government consortium led by the Negev and Galilee
Development Ministry that includes the Agriculture Ministry, the Authority for
Economic Development of the Arab, Druse and Circassian Sectors in the Prime
Minister’s Office, and the Authority for Regulating Beduin Settlement in the
Negev. KKL-JNF also became instrumental in the project, as did other foundations
and individual donors, explained Michael Ben-Eli, founder of the Sustainability
All in all, the program will require investment of about NIS
After four years of planning, work on the project officially
kicked off in December 2011 when the government consortium committed to spending
approximately NIS 10m. on the project.
Of that NIS 10m., NIS 6m. comes
from a team of government offices led by the Negev and Galilee Regional
Development Ministry – in cooperation with the Agriculture Ministry and the
Authority for Economic Development of the Arab, Druse and Circassian Sectors.
The other approximately NIS 4m.
comes from the Authority for Regulating
Beduin Settlement, Ben-Eli said.
In February 2012, the Sustainability
Laboratory announced the receipt of a grant from the Energy and Water Ministry
for the project of NIS 972,440, for installing an advanced solar energy system
for electricity production and building cooling on site, Ben-Eli told The
Jerusalem Post at the time. This system is being manufactured by ZenithSolar, a
company whose products were developed at the National Solar Energy Center at
Ben-Gurion University’s Sde Boker campus.
Advanced irrigation systems
will come from the Netafim firm.
Since the beginning of the project,
KKL-JNF has invested well over $1m., with more funds coming in constantly, JNF
CEO Russell Robinson told the Post on Wednesday evening.
“The Beduin are
part of Israel and part of the Negev,” Robinson said, adding that the Wadi Attir
project will truly be “an economic growth opportunity” for the Beduin
Completion of the preparation phase means that project workers
have nearly finished preparing the land for medical farming and other crop
growth, as well as corralling an area for the future grazing sheep and goats,
Project Wadi Attir is a crucial element in KKLJNF’s
overall vision to develop the Negev and increase the population and its
stability, he added.
This eco-village will affect 10,000 Beduin lives as
a cooperative for all the towns in the region, offering work and education,
“A lot of people can protest about the issues of the
Beduin, but the bottom line is we are the only organization making a relevant
change in the Beduin system,” he said.
“This was from the ground up –
this wasn’t something that came from us down,” Robinson said, noting that his
organization aimed to make “a relevant change in the Beduin system.”
beauty of the project, he explained, was its ability to bring prosperity, be it
for sheep herders or for women developing indigenous cosmetics.
project shows how you can keep the cultural existence,” Robinson
“This is for everybody – it’s a win-win situation.”