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‘1.2 million residents in the Negev by 2025’
By SHARON UDASIN
12/08/2011
Negev Minister Bachor projects that cities of Arad, Yeruham, Dimona will triple in population size by 2025.
 
The Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee aims to have 1.2 million residents – double the current figure – in the Negev by the 2025.

That announcement was made at conference in Yeroham on Thursday, called NegeVision 2011, organized by The Marker and NegevCo, a company that assists projects that will bring development, employment and social opportunities to the Negev.

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Presenting her office’s vision for 2025, Negev and Galilee Development Ministry chief Orna Uzman Bachor projected that the cities of Arad, Yeroham and Dimona would triple in population size, while 40 new industrial and technological facilities would spring up in the next five years alone. Others expressed confidence that the probable construction of a future Training Base City (Ir Habahadim) would bring increased vitality to the area.

“All the momentum that has grown in the Negev is thanks to the wonderful human capital that is found here, and the transfer of army families south,” Bachor said, according to a statement. “We are subsidizing rent for permanent families and we are actively working to increase employment and strengthen central cities that will absorb new residents.”

Highlighting some of the accomplishments her ministry has already made in the region, Bachor spoke about the “smart classrooms” that children across the Negev have been given access to, the statement continued.

Meanwhile, she announced the launch of a brand new website, MacshevVehNegev (Calculator and Negev – www.bnegev.

org.il) designed to allow surfers to compare the cost of living and quality of life in the Negev to their current places of residence. The site contains various parameters that viewers can explore, such as costs of housing, transportation, leisure and cultural opportunities, Bachor explained to conference participants.

“Everything was done as part of the target of the ministry to bring 300,000 new residents to the Negev in the next decade,” she said.

Stef Wertheimer, the founder of many industrial areas in the Negev and the Galilee, expressed concern, however, that approximately 30,000 children from the Negev aren’t included in the Israeli education system, and he blamed the finance and education ministers for slowing Negev development and providing insufficient funds for vocational schools, according to a second statement about the conference.

“Closing vocational schools is one of the main causes for the island of development in the Negev, and we hope that with the move of the Israel Defense Force to the Negev, the situation will improve,” he said.

Brig.-Gen. Hezi Meshita, head of the IDF Negev branch, expressed confidence that this probable move, which is scheduled to occur in 2014, will do just that. The new Training Base City can bring “changes to the foundation” of the Negev, as 30,000 soldiers will move to the Negev for their service and 90,000 trainees will pass through. He expressed hopes that one million residents would live in the Negev by the year 2020.

Yet while Yeroham Mayor Michael Bitton praised the IDF’s intention to make its future home in the Negev, he also expressed concerns that the Training Base City would be isolated from Yeroham and therefore provide it only with minimal benefit.

“Yeroham is excellent today, but the question is whether the establishment of a Training Base City will be an island in the Negev?” Bitton asked, according to the statement.

Bitton suggested that a twolane road specifically be established to connect the city with Yeroham, and that 50 hectares be allotted for entrepreneurs to build services for the new population – calling the project “an acid test” for the IDF in the Negev.
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