LIVE: Israel grows over 50% of its vegetables in the desert. Here is how

Noa Zer, Central Arava Regional Council's Director of Resource Development, in conversation with Maayan Hoffman, Deputy CEO of the Jerusalem Post Group

Maayan Hoffman in conversation with Noa Zer

Watch Live! Monday, 22 May • 5 pm Israel Time|10 am EST

The Arava Desert in Southern Israel represents one of the most arid regions on Earth. 

Yet, over 50% of the country’s fresh produce is cultivated there, as Noa Zer, the Central Arava Regional Council’s Director of Resource Development, highlighted in the first interview of the “Unexpected Israel” series, powered by Jewish National Fund-USA together with The Jerusalem Post.

“In order to grow food in the desert, you must invest in science and innovation because nothing grows naturally here,” she said, speaking from the Arava, where she lives with her family.

“My father-in-law, who is one of the veteran farmers of the region, used to listen to the wind and pat the leaves in order to understand what to do,” Zer shared. “My husband now has an app on his smartphone, which tells him exactly how much fertilizers and water the plants need, his labor force is monitored, and everything is exported to an Excel chart.”

In addition, Zer noted that many groundbreaking inventions, starting from the drip irrigation system, were developed in the Arava.

“It is important to also emphasize that the knowledge and know-how that we develop here are shared also with other countries which share similar challenges,” she added.

The expert explained that if the love for her husband was what connected her to the Arava in the first place, the choice of raising her family there has been prompted by another kind of love, the love for the desert and the Land of Israel.

“For a period, we lived in Tel Aviv, but then the sense of community that you experience in the Arava, the widespread social solidarity, drove us here,” she said. “Zionism also brought us to this place, where people do not need to ask themselves how to incorporate Zionism in their lives, but rather everyone breathes it and practices it every day.”

According to Zer, thanks to the work of the Jewish National Fund-USA, the Arava has become an attractive region for many young families.

“The Negev represents 60% of the Land of Israel and less than 10% of its population,” she concluded. “I think that this is the best place in Israel to raise children, a place immersed in nature where you look at the mountains where the Israelites wander while witnessing the modern miracle of agriculture in Israel.”

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This article was written in cooperation with JNF - USA.