Daniel Atar, World Chairman of KKL-JNF says that ‘Israel 2040’, the organization’s plan for settling massive numbers of people in the Negev and Galilee can make these areas become blooming and empowering centers of innovation over the next twenty years.
Speaking with Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, at the Post’s virtual conference, ‘COVID-19 and the Jews: Challenges and Opportunities’, Atar said that “Our ambition is to help the state of Israel bring one million new residents to the Negev, and a half million to the Galilee. He predicts that the rise in antisemitism worldwide and BDS activity will lead to a huge wave of immigration to Israel. Atar’s hopes that KKL’s plan, in conjunction with its joint activities with Nefesh B’Nefesh, can bring potential newcomers to Israel to the Galilee and the Negev and build a complete enveloping community.
Atar is looking not only to those who will physically move to Israel, but to those who will remain in the Diaspora. “We also see the central role of world Jewry – not just those who wish to make Aliyah or move to Israel,” he said. “We want the same Jew who lives in New York or Washington or anywhere else in the world and wants to invest, to invest in the Galilee and the Negev. He will make money, but he will also make Zionism.” Financial support from those outside Israel, says Atar, will help in the creation of new jobs, allow the Negev and Galilee to absorb newcomers, and will help them integrate socially and economically, to build a new generation of residents in Israel.
Atar is hoping that the State of Israel will increase its financial support for those who will move to the Galilee and Negev, including both new residents and veteran Israelis. “A supportive environment has the potential to draw you to a place, cause you to love it, and want to be a part of its economic and social growth,” said Atar.
In response to a question from Katz regarding agricultural crimes committed against Israeli farmers in Israel’s the Negev and Galilee, Atar said that the State must enforce the law in Israel’s peripheral areas. Agricultural crimes, Atar noted, harm the ability to keep shelves stocked with food throughout the entire country. JNF-KKL has assisted farmers in agricultural research and development, said Atar. “For decades we've taken agriculture and put it at the forefront. All over the world people come to Israel to learn about agricultural development, about the ability to take one acre of land and produce tenfold relative to other areas in the world.” Atar said that the time has come for the State of Israel to support agriculture and Israel’s farmers in the proper way. “They're making the wilderness flourish.”
Atar added that especially now, during the coronavirus crisis, that Israel cannot count on importing agricultural produce from Arab countries or from Turkey. The coronavirus pandemic is a crisis, he said. Yet, Israel was built through struggles, and has thrived. “We have proved to the world that despite everything, we are capable of being at the forefront of the world stage.”