Light at the end of the tunnel

Amid uncertainty surrounding Mitzna’s departure, a new burst of energy has arrived in the shape of one of Yeroham’s newest residents.

As Amram Mitzna prepares to leave his post as Yeroham’s mayor and concern over what will develop in his absence lingers, the town recently received a burst of fresh energy in the form of Ronnie Flamer, one of its newest residents.
At 32, Flamer is one of the most influential people in the Negev. The CEO of the Or movement, an organization established in 2002 with the aim of developing and populating Israel’s periphery, Flamer recently moved to Yeroham to make sure that Mitzna’s leaving does not lead to a backslide in the town.
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Like Mitzna, Flamer is a firm believer in public service.
When he was just in his early twenties, he and three friends founded the movement, choosing to take action and implement a vision of populating Israel’s frontier lands.
“We started out with four guys from Petah Tikva.
During the army, we all went on a six-month journey across the country. In the course of our travels we met up with hundreds of people, and at the end of it we came to a decision. We decided to forgo our positions in the army – we were all officers at the time – and return to civilian life. There were a lot of things that we thought were important, but we decided to focus on settlement as our primary cause,” said Flamer.
Since the establishment of the movement, Or has been responsible for the creation of six new communities, facilitating 22 core groups of young people engaged in various stages of relocation to 70 communities, establishing dozens of public facilities and community projects, relocating 4,000 families with another 10,000 in the process of relocating, and becoming the one-stop shop for all enquiries about the Negev and Galilee.
OR’S EXPRESSED goal, when it comes to settlement of the periphery, is the same as what the government has set out – to have 300,000 people move to the Negev and 300,000 people move to the Galilee by the year 2020. And Flamer is convinced that it will happen.
“If we managed what we have with the existing conditions and with minimum resources – without available housing, without infrastructure, without the massive government support that is now in place, I am sure it is possible,” said Flamer.
“Our goal is for 80 percent of the people to be new residents coming to the periphery, and the rest to be people who remain there. There is something we are beginning to hear pretty often in places like Yeroham: ‘I could have left, but I chose to stay.’ They choose to stay because they know that something good is happening.
People are no longer looking to flee.
“Or’s settlement agenda rests on three main pillars: creating new towns and communities, relocating groups of young people en masse, and strengthening the existing development town. It is the third pillar that Flamer said he sees the most promise in.
“People will go there because everything is waiting for them. They have the master plans in place, they have the necessary infrastructure, they have the education systems, they have the institutions – now all they need is the people. It won’t happen at once, but I believe we will see the breakthrough in 2013-2015, and the towns have to be ready for it,” said Flamer.
“Mitzna has done some amazing things in his time in Yeroham, but it will be no less amazing for the next guy to maintain them,” said Flamer. “Mitzna enjoyed conditions that won’t be available to his replacement.
“While Mitzna didn’t have to worry about [internal] politics, the next guy will suffer from a situation that at best will be bad, and at worst disastrous.”
“I decided to move there because I recognize the importance. If Yeroham fails, the whole Western Negev will fail. I went there to shoulder part of the burden and, as we say, ‘get under the gurney,’” said Flamer.
“I hope the residents will give the new mayor the benefit of the doubt and try to assist him in achieving the goals that Mitzna laid out. At the end of the day, the change has to come from within. Bringing in an outsider cannot be a lasting solution.”