JNF-USA launches design competition for $350 m. World Zionist Village

Designing tomorrow's Israel today.

JNF-USA launches design competition for $350 m. World Zionist Village in Beersheba. (photo credit: JNF-USA)
JNF-USA launches design competition for $350 m. World Zionist Village in Beersheba.
(photo credit: JNF-USA)

Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) is embarking on an exciting new phase of its revolutionary One Billion Dollar Roadmap for the Next Decade, one which will forever change the narrative about Zionism, education, innovation, technology, and Jewish destiny all from the beating heart of Israel’s Negev Desert, Beersheba: they are building the World Zionist Village. 

To kick it off, JNF-USA is launching Envision Tomorrow’s Israel, a design competition that runs from February 4 – April 15 (Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Hebrew for Israel’s Independence Day), and seeks unique concepts and ideas for key elements of the campus, including classrooms, dormitories, conference center spaces, houses of worship, cafés, and entranceways. Competitors are also encouraged to submit design concepts for an iconic structure incorporating Beersheba’s desert landscape and status as the capital of the Negev.  

“Envision Tomorrow’s Israel is a competition for an idea, but not just any idea,” said Jeffrey E. Levin, chairperson of JNF-USA’s Board and co-chair of the Beersheba Construction and Building and Subcommittee. “Our goal is to conceive a grand and striking idea that will create interest in and brand what we are creating in Beersheba for the future. London has Big Ben and Hollywood its famed sign. Will this Village have its own monument, perhaps to Israel’s national heroes like Herzl and Ben-Gurion, making it and Beersheba an internationally recognizable icon? What will distinguish the World Zionist Village and the city? Will the design take advantage of the radiant desert sun and be all solar? Will rooftop gardens adorn every structure, creating lush greenery in the heart of Beersheba? This competition will draw cutting-edge ideas from around the world for an international campus of the future and bestow Beersheba the attention it rightfully deserves.” 

Architects, students, designers, ‘big thinkers,’ educators, and landscape architects from around the world are urged to participate. Submissions are encouraged to support JNF-USA’s mission to strengthen dialogue, education, and interaction among Village users and draw inspiration from Zionism, Judaism, innovation, the desert and environment, and sustainability and cutting-edge ideas to mitigate climate impact. Submissions will be judged on functionality, aesthetics, original creative design incorporating JNF-USA’s guiding principles, energy/environmental concepts, and ease of maintenance. 

Map of the campus (JNF-USA)Map of the campus (JNF-USA)

“The Jewish National Fund-USA World Zionist Village will further transform the character of Beersheba,” said JNF-USA President Dr. Sol Lizerbram. “At the launch of our Blueprint Negev campaign over 15 years ago, there were no hi-tech companies or green spaces in Beersheba, but JNF-USA changed the equation and today hi-tech companies are flocking to the city and young families are choosing to make their home there. The Village will further transform Beersheba and serve as a conduit between the tech elements developed in Israel and Beersheba and the students studying in the programs and courses that will be offered. This is truly the intersection and convergence of education, Zionism, technology, and innovation.”

Entrants can win a cash prize up to $8,600. Contest finalists will be announced on May 13, with the final winner to be announced on June 18, 2021. For a complete breakdown of prizes, visit jnf.org/village.

The competition will be judged by a panel of distinguished architects and public figures, including: 

  • Michael Arad's design for the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site, titled “Reflecting Absence,” was selected by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation from among more than 5,000 entries submitted in an international competition held in 2003. He was selected to design a memorial to the victims of the 2015 Charleston church massacre at the Mother Emanual AME Church in Charleston, SC. 
  • Eran Chen, founder and CEO of ODA, a prolific architectural firm in New York City, who has gained a reputation for delivering mold-breaking designs that deliver a better urban future. He is currently working on constructing the new National Library of Israel, located directly opposite the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) in Jerusalem.
  • Taal Safdie, co-founder of Safdie Rabines Architects, who leads the firm with a focus on creating sustainable, site-specific solutions that are sensitive to their context and highly responsive to the needs of their users. 
  • David Kaufman, Digital Director at Architectural Digest, who leads the publication’s digital properties, which include ArchDigest.com, Clever, and AD PRO, as well as all social media and video content.
  • Stephen B. Jacobs, founder and president of The Stephen B. Jacobs Group, who with his design partner, Andi Pepper, has become one of the most sought-after teams in the hospitality industry thanks to their successes with The Library and Giraffe Hotels, and the Gansevoort in New York.
  • Lionel Ohayon, founder and CEO of ICRAVE, an innovation and design studio in New York City that reimagines built and digital environments for award-winning hospitality, airports, healthcare, and workplace projects across the globe.  
  • Guy Elitzur, CEO of Vertical Fields, a leading agri-tech company that develops innovative vertical solutions for the urban ecosystem by growing plants and crops vertically on walls, making efficient use of city space and turning them into hubs of healthy food, sustainability, and wellness.
  • Professor Kenneth W. Stein, founding Director of the Emory Institute for the Study of Modern Israel and President of the Center for Israel Education at Emory University, that focuses on Israel learning beyond the university.
  • Alon Ben-Gurion, acclaimed international hospitality consultant who has managed the revenue and operations of hotels around the world, including as the general manager of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. He is using his extensive network and hospitality know-how to activity promote development in the Negev, working to make the region bloom and realize the dream of his grandfather, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister. 

“The World Zionist Village is coming at a critical juncture in the ongoing story and destiny of the Jewish people and Israel,” said Joseph Wolfson, first vice president of JNF-USA’s National Board and chair of the Beersheba Executive Committee. “We are creating a magnificent environment where people can engage with one another in conversations of great importance about the future of Judaism, Israel, and Zionism. JNF-USA is visionary and has experience in growing tomorrow’s leaders. There’s no doubt that in 10 to 15 years, thousands upon thousands of students, young adults, and others from around the world will have passed through the Village’s gates, returning home as ambassadors for Israel, advocates for Zionism, and leaders in their communities.” 

Jewish National Fund-USA’s World Zionist Village is the single largest initiative in the organization’s 120-year history. The nearly 20-acre campus, a five-year $350 million investment adjacent to the Beersheba Rive Park and Lake, will serve as the second home for the Alexander Muss High School in Israel; provide an Innovation Center with 50 apartment-like campus residences for post-graduates interning in Beersheba-based hi-tech, medical-tech, and cyber security companies; and include a Zionist Adult Education Center for international adult learners (ages 22 and older) who wish to learn about and connect with Israel from Biblical times to modern-day Israel. 

This World Zionist Village is part of JNF-USA’s vision to ensure a strong, secure, and prosperous future for Israel by connecting the next generation to the land and people of Israel. This new and innovative village in the heart of the Negev will change the status quo and affect how we teach, learn, and connect to Israel for decades to come. 

For more information on the Envision Tomorrow’s Israel: A Competition to Design the Jewish National Fund World Zionist Village, jnf.org/village