Recently, the world learned with horror about a new tactic used by Palestinian terrorists to inflict harm on Israel. “Kite arson” – which last summer caused millions of dollars in damage, thousands of Israelis to get sick, and made life unbearable for people living in towns along Israel’s border – was only the latest attempt by terrorists to target Israelis. Two years ago, terrorist tunnels allowed people and explosives to infiltrate homes, and prior to that, thousands of mortars and rockets rained on these conflict-torn cities.The decision to call this part of Israel home is not a simple one. And those who do are not only demonstrating their resilience, but they are also serving a strategic and important security need for the Jewish state. That’s why Jewish Federations’ contributions to the growth and health of the Negev, which began more than 70 years ago, continues today.“Citizens of Israel’s south are constantly under attack,” said Rebecca Caspi, director general of the Israel office and senior vice president, Israel overseas for The Jewish Federations of North America. “And there is no doubt that makes life in the cities very difficult.” Right now, the Negev is 60% of the land, but only 10% of the population. Jerusalem is packed. Tel Aviv is packed. Haifa is packed. The only way to grow is in the Negev.Creating connection and resilienceFollowing Operation Protective Edge, The Jewish Federations have utilized their resources to employ a strategy entitled “placemaking,” the goal of which is to strengthen individual and community resilience in the region by helping residents make a defined connection to their community and to each other. “Placemaking is about enabling the citizens who live in the south to create a positive connection to the place where they live so they can become a more resilient community,” explained Rina Edelstein, associate vice president for global programs with The Jewish Federations of North America. “Because they’re constantly under fire with war after war in the region, they tend to not necessarily be proud of where they live. We’re trying to make them proud, more connected and better able to bounce back quickly after crisis.”Art and arbors The Negev Creative Placemaking Challenge, which was born in 2014, helps local artists and others breathe new life into cities. The challenge sparked a number of trailblazing programs that have become a source of pride for Negev residents, both current and potential ones.One such placemaking program is Umm Culture House in Sderot. The program comprises painters, performance artists, photographers, videographers and sculptors who express how Sderot’s immigrant populations cope with demographic changes, a common theme in this city. Formed by locals Limor Max and Sharon Ken-Dor, Umm Culture House sparks conversation among locals, newcomers and tourists about life in the South.Then there’s the community garden at Kibbutz Kfar Aza, spearheaded by local resident Livnat Kutz as a way for children and families to cope with, and then build, resilience after Operation Protective Edge. Kfar Aza’s young gardeners come together every weekend to rebuild and replant. The connection to the land and the opportunity to be outdoors – after having spent so much time in bomb shelters – help foster stronger ties to the community and make the individuals more resilient. Building, uniting and creating lasting infrastructure for economic growth. That’s what The Jewish Federations have done and will continue to do in the Negev. Their goal is to fortify networks and implement groundbreaking strategies to strengthen communities across southern Israel, bringing to the desert an oasis of support.