A new initiative launched on Tuesday by Jewish organizations and the government aims at bringing students back to the Galilee. The move follows an average drop of 30 percent in enrollment in northern colleges in the wake of the war.
"This is a young population that contributes significantly to the development of northern communities," said Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski of the project, adding, "We hope many of those who choose to study in the North will one day build their homes there."
The scholarships will cut first-year tuition at Galilee colleges in half, while a second fund will help second- and third-year students, according to officials in Vice Premier Shimon Peres's office.
The project is funded by a United Jewish Communities contribution of $5 million, with an added $2m. raised by the Sacta Rashi Foundation. In all, some NIS 30m. will be available for students.
"The influx of thousands of new students to the Galilee will inject young and dynamic energy to the area, and will constitute another cornerstone for future growth," Peres said following the Tuesday meeting.
The campaign's objective was to boost enrollment in the colleges of the North at least to last year's level, Bielski said at the meeting, which was also attended by UJC Senior Vice President Nahman Shai, Keren Hayesod World Chairman Avi Pazner and Sacta Rashi Foundation representatives.
According to the director-general of Peres's office, Efrat Duvdevani, "The cooperation among these organizations and foundations, together with the government, will create large budget reservoirs for projects that will impact key growth factors such as employment, education, welfare and infrastructure. This cooperation will also make it possible to successfully advance a central government plan, with the partnership of all the foundations and the Jewish communities around the world."
The joint venture also demonstrated the commitment of the American Jewish community to Israel's welfare, according to Nahman Shai.
The initiative comes as part of efforts by the government and Jewish organizations that have been ongoing since mid-August to revitalize the economy and social life in the North.
Bielski and senior officials at the Education Ministry will meet on Wednesday to determine the criteria for disbursing the scholarship money.