Invest in Israel’s geosocial periphery

Year after year, there is a continuing trend of more and more young people deciding to pack themselves off and seek their futures in more established towns and cities, even at a much higher cost.

Soldiers at Beersheba's Central Bus Station  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Soldiers at Beersheba's Central Bus Station
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Or Yehuda, Lod, Bat Yam, Beersheba, and Haifa’s bayside suburbs are some of the prominent places visited in recent weeks by our politicians from across the political spectrum. In the run up to the general elections, the candidates campaigned along the length and breadth of the country, highlighting their visits in neighborhoods, towns and cities located on the social and geographic margins of society, promising the residents a rosy future, rehabilitation and advancement of the periphery, more employment, wonderful education and fantastic infrastructures.
The trend on the ground, however, is apparently not on the campaign trail. Year after year, there is a continuing trend of more and more young people deciding to pack themselves off and seek their futures in more established towns and cities, even at a much higher cost, both financial and social. The older residents have already despaired of election campaigns and promises, and hopes of change, and the geosocial periphery remains in the same difficult-to-break vicious circle.
So, dear elected public officials, this is a proposal to work on a shared vision, if you just choose to abandon your newfound love for never-ending election cycles. This vision that will help you all to come down from your trees of political blocs and boycotts, and get to work – laying the foundations for a model society and a fitting home for our children beyond Tel Aviv’s city limits.
I have been engaged in the business and philanthropy world for several years and, like many others, I have come to understand that the real power driving the market is human capital. In every place situated on the margins of Israeli society, whether the residents are secular, religious, ultra-Orthodox or Arab, there is a nucleus of young people who care, and are prepared to do a great deal to stay there, if only they were given reasons to do so.
In the past decade, I have been involved in a social-economic model that is gaining strength from year to year, and acts on the ground. Hundreds and thousands of young people, with the right encouragement and tools, embark on a path in the opposite direction, choosing to migrate from Israel’s center to its geosocial periphery.
Movements and towns and cities are coming together to lead social change by encouraging students and young people to settle in the geosocial periphery. The basis is the creation of meaningful social-entrepreneurship activity in these localities, and developing a young supporting community. Communities putting down roots in these areas establish kindergartens, participate in community life, and affect all aspects of life from the inside: education, employment, economy, culture and leisure.
The model whereby young people establish communities in neighborhoods and towns/cities in Israel’s geosocial periphery, also drives the local economy – the young people who come, or remain, need housing, thus promoting urban renewal; they seek culture and leisure activities and venues, which creates community and also injects money into local businesses, out of local pride. Thus, the model also reduces the localities’ dependence on the state by creating independent economic life.
Keeping young people in Israel’s geosocial periphery should be one of the main objectives of any government. The young people who stay and make their home in these places bring a new attitude with them. They are ready for changes, they lead, and yet the young people I encounter have so much respect for the place and the community, whether in Lod, Bnei Brak, Rahat or Kiryat Malachi.
To make the country’s geosocial periphery attractive, the government needs to invest dedicated resources into making it a quality alternative. Proven models for establishing young communities should be adopted as a national program for all low SES towns, cities and neighborhoods.
You all forgot to include the geosocial periphery in your election platforms. You excluded these cities, towns and neighborhoods from the campaign discourse. If you have the sagacity to include a commitment to this change in your coalition negotiations, you will quickly discover that there is more that unites you than divides you, and we will be waiting for you on the other side with a well-ordered plan for building a better future.

The author is a CPA, founder of SRI Global Group, and chairman of Tozeret Ha’aretz (establishing student communities in Israel’s geosocial periphery)