Beer Sheva is Israel’s fourth largest city and home to a diverse and challenging community of veteran Israelis, Bedouin, new immigrants and the special needs population. In response to their unique needs, the Kehila leads both general and community-specific initiatives. The Kehila has been successful in enlisting Beer Sheva residents on the grassroots level, through local green forums and major green initiatives. One of the largest undertakings was the newly inaugurated 26-mile Beer Sheva Belt Trail. This hiking trail winds its way around the city, past historic sites and areas of natural interest. It provides residents of Beer Sheva with an ideal venue for sports, recreation, education and culture.
In the rural Bedouin communities, even the most basic standards for public health and the environment continually fail to be met. With the country’s highest birthrate and a myriad of socio-economic problems, these issues barely register among most community members. To counter this environmentally-disastrous trend, the Kehila has started a number of environmental awareness programs within Bedouin communities, geared towards strengthening the sense of civil-environmental responsibility.
In 1998, SPNI launched a nationwide orienteering and empowerment program for immigrant Ethiopian youth. In Beer Sheva, the program has been tailored to meet local needs and also includes Caucasian youth. In this program, adult counselors work closely with the youth, using nature and orienteering as the tools to develop personal responsibility and empowerment, a sense of confidence, and to strengthen Jewish-Israeli identity.
Today, the Beer Sheva Kehila operates throughout the Negev to promote an urban environmental agenda that advances a higher quality of life for all its inhabitants.
Major Initiatives and Successes
- Children Plan-a-Park, part of the rehabilitation of the Beer Sheva Riverbed Park.
- Wide proliferation of environmental education in the public school system, including school-based gardens.
- Community gardens in Beer Sheva's underprivileged neighborhoods.
- Environmental education in Bedouin communities.
- Special leadership development programs for at-risk youth