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Israel Begins to Build Military Oasis in the Negev Desert

May 30, 2013 12:41 pm 15 comments

The Negev desert.

Israel is looking to populate the Negev and it’s doing it by means of the military, The Financial Times reports.

In that desert land an enormous military base is rising. The facility, a training base for the Israel Defense Force, will come replete with an auditorium, three synagogues, shooting ranges, six basketball courts and a visitors’ park for swearing-in and handing-out ceremonies. By the end of 2015, 10,000 army personnel and 2,500 civilian staff will call it home, making it the Negev’s third-largest city.

It’s all part of a plan to move much of the IDF’s operations from Tel Aviv and central Israel, and bring jobs and investment to the south. The plan is to build three more such megabases in the Negev by the end of the decade, and it’s expected to cost the country $9bn in all.

Populating the Negev, which accounts for two thirds of Israel’s land but only ten percent of its population, has long been a goal of the country. Now seems as good a time as ever. According to the Financial Times, “Israel’s government, which faces growing pressure from a middle class squeezed by high living costs, wants to free up more land for residential building.”

However, not everyone is pleased by the plans to populate the Negev.  Human rights groups have been critical of a separate development plan, the Prawer-Begin plan, which they say will uproot up to 40,000 Bedouin Arabs from their homes.

“If we are talking about any [settlement] plans, whether it’s moving bases to the Negev or other plans, first the government should deal with the existing population,” says Rawia Aburabia, a lawyer based in Beer Sheva affiliated with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. “The policies towards these citizens discriminate against them and aim to evict them.”

But others argue this just isn’t the case. IDF and defense ministry officials say the project will benefit the Bedouin by bringing new jobs to the region. “A wide array of services will be outsourced, benefiting the whole region and its various communities, including of course the Bedouin community,” says Ilan Levin, a senior ministry of defense official.

According to the FT, Israeli officials are confident in the project citing David Ben Gurion, the country’s founding father, who moved to a desert kibbutz at Sde Boker after retiring, and dreamed of developing the Negev. “Ben Gurion wanted to make the Negev flower,” says Lieutenant Colonel Shalom Alfassy. “If you bring people who want to work and give them jobs and a reason to be here, the whole region will develop and flower.”


  • Ethan Coane

    The “greening” of the Negev was happening over 40 yrs ago when I worked as a volunteer at Kibbutz Hatzerim outside Beer Sheva and would take a bus to visit Eilat. Coming down a mountain road you could spot rectangles of bright emerald green fields in the midst of the brown, desolate-looking valleys. A wondrous sight. I even helped install a Netafim irrigation system on a moshav south of Eilat in what was, essentially, beach sand just 100 yards from the Red Sea. Amazing what Israeli innovation and determination can accomplish.

  • Hashem provided Nature with the best of goodness; created Men with powerful brain to build, develop, enjoy & live peacefully to enhance a better life, Hashem will never abandon The State of Israel, therefore, the ones who love us, come cherish with us, but the ones who hate us wil suffer the curse of Hashem, Peace upon the State of Israel, Amen!

  • The Negev is already turning green….check out what Ofir Fisher (DuDu’s son) is doing in Beersheba!!

  • Israel you have proven what you did with desert and turned it into the most beautiful country in the world in 65 years.I have no doubt that you will e even more sucessful in developing the Negev into something amazing.Go ahead and show the rest of the world what peaceloving people can achieve.

  • It is good policy for any country to build military facilities in lightly populated areas. It is also a good idea to spread out military bases as they are all potential targets.

  • Otto Schiff

    It is not only what you do but also how you do it.
    The current inhabitants of the Negev need to be partners.

  • jerry hersch

    Now if only the bases can incorporate civilian uses…A airfield to augment Ben Gurion…cargo facilities to handle and ship the production of the entire region.
    Relieving the glut and congestion of the Central corridor.
    Roads,rail and pipelines to Both coasts…nearby oil shale deposits,solar potential..ingredients to make the military facilities perhaps somewhat self-supporting in a vast manufacturing trasportation hub.

  • …and the water comes from where?

    • frederick benjamin

      desalinization plants in the red sea. elat already gets 30% of its water this way.

  • Markus E Brajtman

    Wonderful idea.
    The Negev needs to be developed and hopefully, eventually, a city like Bersheva will be developed

    I am sure HASHEM will give Israel HIS blessing for this development

  • I think it is a wonderful idea to build up and populate
    the Negev, especially as it will be a major boon
    to the local economy and the well being of the
    Bedouin community. Economic interdependence
    of Israelis and Arabs, in the long term, may be the only realistic
    way out of the cycle of hatred and animosity. I think a political
    solution cannot be imposed from above until the people involved
    see the advantages and benefits of thriving together

    • Fantastic idea. I already envision Ben Gurion’s wish………..As for living in peace with our cousins, that will take generations……….As it ain’t working now…….Trust takes time to build………..

      • I like your philosophy but I don’t see how it will be possible to live with the Arabs in peace when nearly all their resources have been going to teaching and fomenting hate for both the present and for future generations. Almost everything in their culture, such as their songs, their writing, and their art promotes hatred. It is a crime punishable by death for an Arab to sell land to a Jew in the PA controlled parts of Israel!! I can’t imagine that an Arab growing up in such an atmosphere could even be expected to look at Israelis as possible partners.

    • My reply to Nomi was meant to be a reply to you.

  • The barren Negev desert will bloom and this vast land will develop an economy that all may enjoy

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