A desert promise realised

From left: Eva Besen, Fay and Sam Gandel, Paula and David Ben-Gurion, Marc Besen in Sde Boker, 1958.

IT was 1958 when former Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion shared his vision of settling Israel’s Negev desert with philanthropist Marc Besen in Sde Boker. 

And now over 60 years later that vision is further being realised, with Marc and Eva Besen together with the Besen Family Foundation joining JNF Australia, Ramat HaNegev Regional Council and the Israeli Ministry for Education in establishing the very first high school in Ramat HaNegev. 

“Ben-Gurion talked about his dream to settle the Negev and I made a promise to him,” reflected Marc Besen, adding, “It is a great privilege to take part in his vision and dream.”

Situated in Israel’s southern periphery, the Ramat HaNegev First Regional High School is slated to open at the beginning of the new school year on September 1, 2019. 

Ben-Gurion’s dream of settling the Negev is an integral part of JNF’s mission, as it works to provide affordable housing, employment, education and a high quality of communal life. The establishment of the first Ramat HaNegev High School has the potential and hope of bringing hundreds of people to the region. 

“The Negev has a warm place in my heart and I am proud to be a partner in this project which contributes to the education of children and to the environment,” said Besen. 

JNF Victoria president Ronit Fraid thanked the Besen Family and Foundation “for their devotion and generous contribution to implementing the vision”. 

“JNF is about making a difference in Israel, real and tangible improvements and innovations for the inspirational Israeli people and on the land,” she commented.

Eran Doron, Mayor of the Ramat HaNegev Regional Council also expressed his deep gratitude to all parties. 

“Thanks to you, this dream has become a reality,” he enthused.

For the first time, the youth of the Negev will have the opportunity to receive accessible education from within the boundaries of the council from their birth until their enlistment in the IDF. Up until this point, secondary education required up to three hours of daily travel.

According to the Regional Council, the new school will operate in the spirit of Ramat HaNegev values: “Judaism, pioneering, innovation, Zionism, mutual responsibility, love of nature, and humanism.”

The school will also provide a high tech hub operated by local experts, apprentice programs in conjunction with nearby research institutes and other after-school activities. 

Fraid shared, “We dream big – we provide environmental, social, educational and benevolent relief all over the country with a special emphasis on building the periphery to ensure the ongoing growth, strategic security and strength of our very special and beloved country.”