Since the Central Arava region and the Jewish community of Australia were partnered through the Jewish Agency's Partnership 2000 project sixteen years ago, much has been accomplished and strong personal ties have been formed. Partnership 2000 was initiated in order to encourage regional development in Israel, and to help develop mutual relations with Jewish communities the world over. Each Israeli region was partnered with a Jewish community abroad: Max Shnider, the first representative of the Australian community, chose the Central Arava as the most suitable partner for Australia, due the pioneering element in both communities, as well as other mutual characteristics (isolated regions, desert agriculture). Close, warm ties have developed between the members of the two communities, despite the great physical distance between them, creating a true "living bridge".
Max Shnider, Australian founding member of the Partnership
Over the years Partnership 2000 has supported many projects that have contributed to the economic development of the Arava, as well as others that have helped raise the level of services provided to the residents, thereby improving the quality of their lives, and enabling the absorption of additional residents. In recent years activists from both communities working together in joint subcommittees have promoted and created projects which deepen reciprocal relations, promote awareness of the Partnership, and assist in regional development. The mutuality of Partnership 2000, as opposed to the traditional philanthropic approach, is what makes this project so unique and exciting.
Young Australians on the "Israel By Choice" program visiting the Arava
The connection between the Central Arava and Australia has become part of the traditions of the region and the community. For the past twelve years reciprocal high school delegations have visited their peers in the Arava, Melbourne and Sydney, and have learned at first-hand how each side expresses its Jewish identity. This connection has also become an integral part of curricula in the schools in both communities. Australians visiting Israel know that the Arava is their "home away from home", and hundreds of close, personal friendships have been formed.
The 2006 Arava high school delegation to Australia with their hosts
About the partners
The Australian Community
The Australian Jewish community can trace its roots all the way back to the arrival of the first European settlers in 1788. The community today is flourishing and continually growing, with some 120,000 Jewish people living in mainly in Melbourne and Sydney, with additional Jewish centers in Brisbane-Gold Coast, Perth, Adelaide and more. In recent years the Former Soviet Union and South Africa have been the principal sources of immigration.
Ballarat Synagogue, the oldest synagogue on the Australian mainland, situated on the Victorian goldfields, established in 1853.
Approximately 50 per cent of the Jewish community are either Holocaust survivors or their descendants, or are closely related to its victims. Museums and permanent memorials have been established in a number of cities and efforts continue to improve Holocaust education in the general community.
Jewish education is of major importance in the community, with many children attending the network of Jewish day schools which has developed in Australia, and which has become the envy of many other Jewish communities. Australian Jewry also has a reputation for having a close and meaningful relationship with the Israeli people. Most Australian Jews have family members in Israel and each year many young Australians participate in one of a variety of programs based in Israel. This already existing deep connection with Israel helped facilitate the success of the Partnership 2000 project.
Note: Keren-Hayesod - United Israel Appeal is the central fundraising organization for Israel throughout the world (except the USA), operating in 45 countries on every continent in the world. The total contributions received by Keren Hayesod in 2007 from their annual Australia and Emergency (Second Lebanon) War Campaigns put Australia in first place among all Keren Hayesod communities, and ahead of many North American communities as well.
The Central Arava Region
The Central Arava is the most isolated region in Israel at about130 kms from urban centers (Beersheva in the north and Eilat in the south). The region encompasses 1.5 million dunams, which is about 6% of the land area of the State of Israel, and there are about 2,700 residents (550 families), that live in the Arava's seven settlements: five collective agricultural settlements (moshavim) and two community settlements.
The first settlers came to the Arava region with the agricultural branch of the Army (Nahal) in 1960, and set up their tents in a forbidding and barren region, in order to help guard the border with Jordan, and to follow the dictate of David Ben Gurion to make the desert bloom. This would become Moshav Ein Yahav.
Ein Yahav - the beginning years
Golda Meir on a visit to Ein Yahav in 1971, together with Shai Ben Eliahu, one of the moshav founders - look what had been achieved in just over 10 years!
Over the years the region has developed into one of the foremost agricultural regions in the world, producing 60% of the vegetable exports from Israel and 13% of the cut flower exports. The sophisticated agricultural techniques are developed by the local Research and Development Station, which is internationally known for its expertise in desert agriculture.
In 2009, fifty years after Ein Yahav was established, the Arava region celebrated it's half a century of settlement - in addition to turning one of the most barren and isolated parts of Israel into a region boasting seven flourishing settlements, the pride of the region is the second generation, the sons and daughters of the first settlers who returned to the region to bring up their young families in the Arava.
Moshav Ein Yahav - aerial view 2003
Agricultural produce of the Arava
During the past few years a flourishing tourism industry has developed in the Arava, thanks to its unique and primal landscape, beautiful geological formations, and historical and archeological sites, such as the Ancient Spice Route, along which myrrh and frankincense were carried from Saudi Arabia to the Greek and Roman Empires.
Entrance to the Spice Route
Partnership 2000 provided almost all of the funding to establish and operate the regional Tourism Dept., which ensures that visitors to the region find appropriate accommodations, advertises and markets the region, and supports local entrepreneurs in many different ways.
Bedouin style tent at Hazeva guesthouses
How we work together
On the Israeli side volunteer Partnership activists work in reciprocal relations, education and community, and regional development subcommittees, headed by Arava-Australia Partnership director Cochy Avny. On the Australian side a committed group of volunteer activists in Melbourne, whose connection with the Partnership began in 2003, work on the ACE (art, community and education) and regional development subcommittees, headed by Sam Salcman and supported by Miriam Suss, the Executive Director of the Victorian UIA. Both the Australian and Israeli members take an active role in screening projects for the Partnership budget, and the heads of the Israeli subcommittees are also part of the Steering Committee.
Tamara Bruce, Celia Yitzhak, Sam Salcman and David Miller
The P2K Steering Committee guides the policy of the Partnership, and allocates the budget. It is comprised of volunteers, including Co-chairs Ron Finkel from Melbourne and Peter Rabin from the Arava. Former Melbourne Co-chair Jack Smorgon AO is currently the Co-chair of the Jewish Agency's Israel Dept.
Ron Finkel, Peter Rabin and Jack Smorgon AO
We Are Family!
Partnership 2000 works on many levels to support the Arava region, and to create connections between Jews in Australia and in the region. The pride of the region is the annual hosting of the Melbourne UIA key workers in the homes of the residents for a weekend in December or January. The organizers at first didn't believe it would be possible to find enough families willing to open their homes to the visitors from Australia for three days, but the program has proven so successful that there is actually competition among the hosts!
Karen and Danny Lipson with their host in the Arava, Merav Shalev
We are very proud of what we have achieved over the past years. Many of the programs assisted by P2K are now able to stand on their own, and the support of the Partnership has been crucial to the development of the region. We look forward to the future, with great anticipation of even better things to come.