JNF launches $1 billion program to settle ‘Western’ Jewish immigrants ‘fueled by Zionism’ in the Negev and Galilee

Israel/Palestine
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Children planting trees in Israel with the Jewish National Fund. (Photo: JNF/JSS News)

Children planting trees in Israel with the Jewish National Fund. (Photo: JNF/JSS News)

Over the next 10 years the Jewish National Fund aims to inject $1 billion into programs to increase North American immigration to Jewish-only communities in the Negev and Galilee, and renew Zionist education. The JNF will invest $400 million into “Blueprint Negev” and “Go North,” plans derived from the quasi-governmental organization with the goal of attracting 250,000 “skilled and motivated Western Olim” and “physicians from North America and the UK who are fueled by Zionism.”

Expanding outreach to youth, the JNF is also investing $200 million in “Zionist Education and Advocacy.” Programs begin for children age five and run through university level, including a landmark campaign for “a young person to bond with a child who perished in the Holocaust as part of his or her B’nai/Bat Mitzvah ceremony.”

‘Go South, Go North!’

In a fundraising packet to perspective project donors the JNF touts a $400 million southern desert plan to establish 18 exclusively Jewish localities, and construct similar communities in the Galilee under the pioneering tag line “Go North.” JNF priority areas are in regions inhabited by Israel’s highest concentration of Arab-Palestinians, notably Bedouins in the south. The JNF proposal describes these sites as a “high-value return on investment,” because financial backers will be compensated not in “capital gains but rather as social impact on Israeli society and on American Jews connected to Israel.”

That impact dates back to 2005 after the disengagement from Gaza when then JNF sought to make desirable a lavish pioneer life, inspired by David Ben-Gurion’s notion of making the desert bloom, but with swimming pools and air-conditioning. “Our plan includes parks, recreation sites, and sports fields and all the amenities that make up the quality of life of a nation,” says the report, which also allocates and additional $100 million to establish expensive baseball and softball fields, and visitor centers.

That same year the Beersheva municipality adopted Blueprint Negev. Since then seven exclusively Jewish communities have been constructed by the JNF in the Negev, three of which are administered by the private Jewish-nationalist housing organization, the OR Movement whose mission is to “strengthen the periphery” of Israel by creating towns—guides included—for the explicit purpose of inflating the population of Jews over that of the Palestinian-Arabs.

For their future plans, the JNF funding outline lists the OR Movement as a partner in the $400 million demographics project, although the specific amount is not itemized. One project already underway, Hiran, is an illegal Jewish-Israeli squatter village in the middle of a JNF forest. The community of shabby caravans and metal fencing thanks the JNF on a plaque mounted to the siding of the town’s synagogue. However, in Blueprint Negev the JNF plans to move Hiran to a series of plots where Bedouins have lived since the 1950’s when Israel’s then military government placed them there. It’s no surprise then the OR Movement has sought out land already inhabited. On their website the OR Movement states: “the Negev remained uninhabited for many generations – until the Jews began to return in the early 19th century.” Other online resources include state benefits for immigrants to these exclusively Jewish communities, including income tax deductions, increased salaries for teachers and agricultural support such as greenhouses.

Over the past decade years the JNF has moved nearly 40,000 North American Jews into Blueprint Negev and Galilee communities, and the funding proposes to meet that same goal over the next decade.

$200 million Zionist ‘Education and Advocacy’

The JNF budget allocates $200 million in education over the next 10 years for projects that are at “the forefront of Zionist engagement in the USA and in Israel,” including a Holocaust-themed B’nei Mitzvah experience for teens, and a $50 million in AIPAC-style free university leaders trips to Israel.  New programs will develop “top quality Zionist educational materials, and engage and connect people with Israel experiences from childhood to adulthood.” $50 will go towards “My Israel Tree” a campaign for kindergarten age youth that aspire to “maintain engagement throughout their Zionist experience journey.”

The objective of “My Israel Tree” is to initiate and “leverage” an initial foray “into a lifelong journey with Jewish National Fund and with all of our Zionist Education programs.” For when a youth enters adolescence, the JNF is launching a special program that “allows a young person to bond with a child who perished in the Holocaust as part of his or her B’nai/Bat Mitzvah ceremony.” The JNF will produce materials that combine the name of the child coming of age with that of a Holocaust victim that was killed at the same stage of their life, “allowing them to be part of the development of the land of Israel forever.” Such visuals denote “sharing this cycle of life passage with someone who never had the opportunity,” states the JNF prospectus.

But the JNF’s largest Zionist output is geared for college students, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Fifty million will be invested in a target of 50 university conferences under the working title: “Israel: Making the World a Better Place.” Another program, “Caravan for Democracy ‘Common Ground’ Leadership Mission to Israel” is a fully subsidized collegiate trip to Israel for 15 of the “best sophomore and junior college student leaders in the country who possess networking and communication skills so as to share what they learned about Israel with others.”

JNF blue boxes.

JNF blue boxes.

For faculty, the JNF plans to send 40 professors to Israel per year with the goal of establishing partnerships with Israeli universities.

In addition, the JNF funding packet also announces that they will develop an “Executive Forum,” a special trip to Israel designed for major donors to the organization.

As for the Blue Boxes, a campaign where children collect change in cardboard charity containers adorned with the Israeli flag for donations to plant trees in Israel’s desert, the JNF will continue the flagship mass donation drive. “The “JNF has developed far beyond blue boxes and tree planting,” the organization tells its supporters in the 10-year plan. “We are an organization of social entrepreneurs utilizing cutting-edge best practices to operate like a 21st Century business.”

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