‘Periphery’ communities hawk themselves in Tel Aviv

Negev and Galilee Development Ministry’s settlement fair organized to introduce Israelis to the range of living options in the country’s outlying areas.

Negev 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Negev 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
An estimated 8,000 people visited the Tel Aviv Port on Tuesday to take part in the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry’s settlement fair, organized to introduce Israelis to the range of living options in the country’s outlying areas.
The event, whose slogan was “Don’t just stand there, settle down,” brought representatives from over 100 regional and local authorities to try and convince residents of the country’s central regions to move to the North or South.
Every participating authority did its utmost to distinguish themselves from its neighbors and aside from picturesque landscapes and maps highlighting its advantageous location, every community tried to provide an extra touch so that it would be remembered favorably.
The Golan Regional Council, for example, gave passersby apples picked from their orchards, while at the Eilat booth they handed out popsicles.
Some booths held activities to entertain the children, while others offered wine tastings for the adults.
At the Yavne’el booth, passersby were enticed to stay and chat with a bag of popcorn.
While the visitors were munching away, volunteers extolled the virtues of the small town north of Afula.
“Most people wouldn’t be able to locate Yavne’el on a map. They might think it’s close to the city of Yavne, but actually we are at the other end of the country,” said Ofra Lember, a volunteer spokeswoman for the town of 3,000.
“While we might be considered out of the way, we’re really not that far from the center.
It only takes an hour-and-ahalf to get from there to Tel Aviv and we’re only 50 minutes away from Haifa,” she said.
“People come to Yavne’el if they want a high quality of life for a reasonable price. Whereas in the center, buying and owning a house is only possible for the very wealthy, land prices in the periphery mean that ordinary people can own a house with a backyard,” Lember added.
“True they sacrifice the convenience of living in the center, but they also ‘sacrifice’ things like traffic jams and pollution.”
Yavne’el Local Council Chairman Roni Cohen said his town would welcome anybody who chose to live there and was even holding aside plots of land for young families who chose to make the move. Cohen congratulated the ministry on the initiative and said that he would definitely come to another such event, if one were to be organized in the future.
While most of the attendees seemed to be young couples or young families pushing baby carriages, Tal Ochana, who manned the booth for Yeroham, said that many of the people who stopped by her booth were sharks looking for a good real estate investment.
“I could tell by their questions and their bearing who they were, but that’s not the reason we’re here,” she said.
“We’re here to show off our village to people who are considering moving away form the center and attracting them to live in Yeroham. We tell them about the job opportunities in the region and the high quality education and recreational activities out of hope that they will choose to come and strengthen our community.”
“The goal is to try and bring about momentum to aid the Negev and the Galilee, to assist in settlement of the periphery and to get people to better know the regions,” said Vice Premier and Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom.
“I think that many people who live in the center are unfamiliar with the Negev and the Galilee,” he said. “We brought in 100 booths representing a majority of the cities, towns and villages. We have mayors and local council heads and all of them are here to sell their product to the Israeli public.
“I believe they have a winning product and I really hope that it will lead to an awakening.
We have seen thousands of people come through and I sincerely hope that we will be able to realize the vision that I believe in, of bringing an additional 300,000 residents to the Negev and another 300,000 to the Galilee.
“The fair is targeted for anyone who is considering moving to the Negev and the Galilee and also to give a boost of encouragement for the people who already live there and to get them to stay.
“Every group that is presenting here today has its own unique characteristics to offer.
Cities provide one thing and rural villages provide something completely different. The point of the fair is to have everybody in the same place where they can express their strengths for all to see,” said Shalom.
Throughout the day the festive atmosphere was kept alive by bands and street performers from the represented towns.
A highlight of the event was a friendly exhibition game between two professional soccer clubs: Hapoel Beersheba representing the South, lost to Ironi Kiryat Shmona, playing for the North in a game that ended with a penalty shootout.
Among the people handing out flyers at the fair were Beduin representatives of the unrecognized villages in the Negev.
“We weren’t invited and we don’t have a booth, but we’re here to make sure that people don’t forget that we are part of the Negev, too,” said one of the volunteers. “We think there is plenty of land for everyone to come and settle, we only ask that it not be at our expense.
The event lasted into the night with speeches and concerts on a central stage.