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It was the great dream of founding father David Ben-Gurion to make the desert bloom. The dream is getting a major boost Tuesday evening, when the government will officially inaugurate the Year of Development of the Negev and the Galilee at the opening ceremony to mark Israel's 58th year of independence.
This plan of action started under the previous government, when then prime minister Ariel Sharon put Shimon Peres, one of Ben-Gurion's most loyal and ardent disciples in charge of the Negev and Galilee Development Project and created a ministry for the purpose.
On Monday, Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with Peres to ask him to continue in this essential ministerial position.
In keeping with this year's Independence Day theme, all beacons on Mount Herzl will be lit by people with tangible connections to the Negev or the Galilee. Some of the beacons will be lit individually and the others will be lit by pairs.
The following are the 14 beacon lighters.
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog was formerly OC Southern Command. Almog, who lost a brother in the Yom Kippur War, and is the father of a brain-damaged son, initiated and founded Aleh Negev, an occupational rehabilitation center in the Negev.
Elie Elalouf is the Director-General of the Sacta-Rashi Foundation, which operates hundreds of educational, health and welfare projects for underprivileged children and youth mainly in the Negev and the Galilee with the assistance of private donations from abroad.
Yehuda Dekel is Chairman of the Society for the Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites. Dekel, who spearheaded Mitzpeh (Lookout) settlements in the Galilee and community settlements in the Negev, has held many high-profile positions in the Jewish Agency and has also been involved in developing industrial and tourism-oriented projects in the Negev and the Galilee.
Dorit Almaliah was a driving force in the development of rural guest-houses in the Galilee. As head of the Kiryat Shmona Business Development Center for ten years, she helped boost small businesses in the Galilee and initiated a study program in Tel Hai College to advance the status of women in business. She was born in Haifa and is a member of Kibbutz Snir in the Galilee.
Shmuel Ben Shalom is a resident of the development town Yeroham, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Ben Shalom was born in Kibbutz Sa'ad and is father to 9 children. He inspired a group of young educated religious people from the center of the country, to follow him to Yeroham, where he also founded a religious girls' school and a hesder yeshiva which he currently heads. He serves as a model for the persevering pioneer spirit.Prof. Shaul Sasa is the director of the Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya, a provider of medical services to residents of Western Galilee. Under the leadership the Iraqi-born Sasa the hospital has evolved into an important medical center, and his activities reflect his keen awareness of social and community needs. He has advanced many projects in cooperation with the international Jewish community.
Sara Hatan was among the pioneers of Moshav Shtula on the northern border. To keep body and soul together, the mother of 14 children, Kurdistan-born, Hatan established a small business which she runs together with members of her family.
Ruth Kaplan, who was born in the US in 1946, has lived in the Arava from the age of 17, settling in Moshav Hatzeva before it was accorded settlement status. The desert agriculture experience which she gained together with her friends and colleagues over the years, is now standard practice in all Arava farms.. She continues to derive her income from agriculture and her sons follow in her footsteps in Moshav Hatzeva. She is a member of the Tamar Regional Council.
Natasha Lyametz is a 17-year-old Upper Nazareth resident, and immigrant from the former Soviet Union. Lyametz is involved with the Cross-Galilee project spearheaded by the Union of Community Centers aimed at bringing together Galilee Jewish and Arab teenagers. Her activities include participation in a Jewish-Arab community theater.
Zacharia Liraz-Feld is the promoter and organizer of wide-ranging cultural activities in the Negev and the Galilee - Ofakim, Beersheba, Arad, Tiberias, Safed and Merom HaGalil - including the Arad Festival, the Safed Klezmer Festival, the Druze and Circassian Culture Festivals and other educational events.
Stef Wertheimer is renowned as an innovative industrialist. Wertheimer, a former Member of Knesset , has founded many enterprises, including four industrial parks in the Galilee and the Negev. His has made major contributions to job-generation initiatives and industrial and business entrepreneurship. Over the years, Wertheimer's creativity has been directed towards educational, social-related and art-oriented projects.
Dr. Esther Luzzatto was born into a large and well-known family in Beersheba and is a partner in a patent attorney law firm. She constantly combines her work with public service. A Ben-Gurion University graduate with a doctorate in chemistry, Luzzatto serves as Deputy President of the university's Alumni Association. She is also one of the founders of the Negev Hi-Tech Center.
Jamila Khir, also known as "Grandma Jamila", lives in the Druze Peki'in village in the Galilee. She set up a successful plant in her home for products processed from olives, an operation that today employs 25 workers from various religious denominations. Her four sons served in an IDF combat unit.
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