Nevatim Celebrates 60 Years and Dedicates a New Reservoir for the Negev

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 2:55 PM

"Already last spring, 1200 dunams of potatoes were planted, and we were amazed this spring by the green landscapes thanks to this reservoir."

The gala reception last Thursday, celebrating 60 years since the establishment of Moshav Nevatim, included a dedication ceremony for the new Nevatim Water Reclamation Facility. The reservoir, along with the Founders Park, is one of the many ecological projects supported by friends of JNF Australia, who adopted Nevatim, a rural community founded in 1946 on KKL-JNF lands in the northern Negev.


The Nevatim Reservoir. Photo: Edi Israel, KKL-JNF Photo Archive

The dedication ceremony for the new reservoir was attended by many special guests including KKL-JNF Chairman Efi Stenzler, KKL-JNF senior executives, local residents, and partners in the reservoir project. Special guests also included KKL-JNF executive board member Itzik Elia; General Director of the Negev Water Association Yair Mena; KKL-JNF Southern Region Director Ami Uliel; and General Director of Shikma Besor Drainage Authority Dr. Nehemia Shahaf. The guests of honor were Colin and Gillian Mandel of JNF Australia, who unveiled the dedication plaque at the new reservoir.

The Nevatim Reservoir is one of five water reservoirs that have been constructed in the Bnei Shimon Regional Council thanks to the support of JNF Australia

KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler presents JNF Australia Friends Colin and Gillian Mandel with a gift of appreciation. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

The reservoirs altogether add 12 million cubic meters of water per year to the Negev’s water supply, enabling advanced agricultural development while saving precious freshwater. 

In his greetings at the ceremony, KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler thanked KKL-JNF's friends in Australia for the donations that enabled the building of the reservoir and spoke about its importance for the vicinity.

“Dedicating a reservoir with a volume of a million cubic meters is a joyous occasion,” said Stenzler. “This reservoir will provide more water for Nevatim and for the Beersheva River Park, and it is a welcome addition to the reservoirs in the Bnei Shimon Regional Council and the reservoirs constructed by KKL-JNF all over Israel, which number more than 230. The Nevatim Reservoir will be supplying high quality water at low cost and will also be serving as an ecological solution for effluents and drainage. Like other reservoirs, it will free up freshwater for domestic use and for the replenishment of natural resources. It is an important component of KKL-JNF's work to develop the Negev and realize the Zionist vision.”

A section of the Founders Park at Nevatim. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

One of KKL-JNF's major priorities is to promote sustainable development for the Negev. In order to achieve this, water is one of the key ingredients. The 1 million cubic-meter Nevatim Water Reclamation Facility has been designed to receive treated wastewater from the Be'er Sheva region that is then used to irrigate potatoes, vegetables, jojoba and olive groves. Negev communities that enjoy this inexpensive source of water include Nevatim, Revivim-Mash'abbe Sadeh and Sede Boker. The water will also used to irrigate green areas in the city of Be'er Sheva. 
Avraham Or, Committee Chairman of the Agricultural Association, who also spoke at the dedication ceremony, stressed the importance of the reservoir for Moshav Nevatim and said that there had been flourishing agriculture here in the past, with apricot, olive and almond groves, and flowers exported to Europe. 

Uri Asher. Photo: Naama Hirsch

“Financial changes and crises led to a decline in the field of agriculture, and with the price of water being what it is these days, it was hard to sustain agricultural production. Fortunately, thanks to the reservoir, we can now restore the prosperous agricultural activity we once knew here. On behalf of everyone in Nevatim, I would like to thank the community of Australia from the bottom of my heart for its inestimable involvement in the development of our community. This reservoir will make the center of our village beautiful, especially the Founders Park, which was also a gift of JNF Australia.”

Uri Asher, Mashabei Hanegev Vice President, spoke at the ceremony about the importance of Moshav Nevatim, one of the 34 rural member communities of the Negev, and thanked all those who participated in the reservoir project.

Colin and Gillian Mandel. Photo: Naama Hirsch

He mentioned KKL-JNF's ongoing involvement in numerous projects in the Negev and reiterated that local agriculture could be revived thanks to the reservoir.

“Already last spring, 1200 dunams of potatoes were planted, and we were amazed this spring by the green landscapes thanks to this reservoir. Our hope is that in the next few years we will be seeing green fields in every direction instead of only desert.”

Colin Mandel, who was in Israel on a special visit and toured diverse projects in southern Israel, spoke about the importance of reservoirs for the Negev in general and about the contribution of his parents, Tom and Rae Mandel to the water resources of southern Israel, by means of the Tifrach Reservoir and the Arye Pools.

Celebrating Cochini culture at Moshav Nevatim. Photo: Naama Hirsch

“We would like to convey our best wishes on the occasion of the dedication of the Nevatim Reservoir, which like many other facilities is a lifesaver for the local farmers and for local agricultural development.  It supplies a great quantity of reclaimed water for irrigation, and this is a real boost for Israel’s economy. This issue was very important to my father and very close to his heart, and because he was so involved in this enterprise, the new reservoir helps commemorate him while providing great assistance to the residents of the Negev. I would also like to wish great success to Moshav Nevatim and the community of immigrants from Cochin on the occasion of celebrating 60 years since the founding of their community. May you have many long years of prosperity and growth! 

MK Zevulun Kalfa.  Naama Hirsch

Thanks to the vision of my friends from JNF Australia, and with the cooperation of the Bnei Shimon Regional Council, the community of Nevatim has succeeded in developing the beautiful Founders Park next to the Museum of the History of the Jews of Cochin, and with the plan for irrigation with treated wastewater from the reservoir, which is an ecological wonder, we will be seeing a lot of green in the Founders Park and all over Nevatim. On behalf of JNF Australia, I would like to congratulate you on the dedication of the reservoir and on the occasion of the celebration of the 60th year of Nevatim.”

After the speeches was the ceremony for the unveiling of the donor appreciation plaque, which was symbolically designed in the shape of a drop of water. Afterwards, the gala reception began for the celebration of the 60th year of Moshav Nevatim and for the community of Jews from Cochin. Delicacies of Indian cuisine were served; there was a display of the cultural heritage of the Jews of Cochin, and a visit to the Museum of the History of the Jews of Cochin. A varied and impressive performance followed, featuring young and old stars, with photos from the early days of Nevatim to the present screened in the background. 

Tovi Shor. Photo: Naama Hirsch

Opening greetings at the reception were delivered by MK Zevulun Kalfa, Chairman of the Knesset Agricultural Lobby. “When I look at Nevatim I think that there is a special story here, a story about a community that knew many hardships over the years. Today we look at Nevatim and see a diverse community, alive and well, with a very special history and tradition.”
Tovi Shor spoke on behalf of Sigal Moran, Mayor of the Bnei Shimon Regional Council, and praised the magnificent development of Nevatim over the years. “Every community has its own character and tradition, and through the leaders of this community we can see the character of the community—modest, with great motivation shining in their eyes, and active, with great willingness to accomplish things. What is special about Nevatim, and perhaps also a challenge for the years ahead, is the unusual combination of old and new. The culture and growth of the tens of families, and the ability to bridge the traditional roots and the younger generation, are remarkable. I would like to thank KKL-JNF for its cooperation with the Regional Council at many sites, and here in Nevatim, for such great work.”

Eldos Mathew Punnoose. Photo: Naama Hirsch

An honoured guest at the celebration, Mr. Eldos Mathew Punnoose, Secretary of the Indian Embassy in Israel, began his address in fluent Hebrew and continued in English. “The Embassy of India views Nevatim as the center of Indian immigrants in Israel,” he said, “and I am proud to convey my compliments to the people of Nevatim, and to all the people of the Negev, who have shown us their fortitude lately. We salute you!” 

Matthews expressed his condolences for the officer who fell in combat in Gaza, in Operation Protective Edge, who was a member of the Cochin community in Israel, Lieutenant Paz Eliahu. “When I read about him, I read about the Cochin community. Cochinis are very tough. They are not the first community that tried to settle in the area of Nevatim. Other communities tried, but no one could bear these desert conditions—except the Cochinis, with their strength and perseverance, who coped with the harsh conditions in the Negev and built this beautiful community we are seeing today. This is why I say Cochinis are tough. Nevatim is the best example of the Cochini character.”

Ilana Yogev, Director of the Community and Culture Division of the Moshav Movement, spoke about how important it was for the celebration to take place in spite of the complex security situation. “We deliberated a lot and finally decided to have the event and go ahead with it at full force and connect everyone. The process of community connection, which is expressed at this event, reflects the roots of the place, the tradition, the determination, and the value of making choices.” 

Itzik Elia. Photo: Naama Hirsch

Itzik Elia, Chairman of the Moshav Communities of the Negev, and Secretary General of the Poel Hamizrachi Moshav Association, concluded the greetings and speeches in honor or Nevatim's 60th anniversary. “Over the years I have learned that KKL-JNF is not just a blue box. I don’t know what the State of Israel would do if there were no KKL-JNF. It helps in so many fields and dimensions, especially in the Galilee and in the Negev. On behalf of the people of the Negev, I would like to thank KKL-JNF for always giving us a hand.” Elia congratulated the people of Nevatim and noted its beautiful development over the years. “When you enter Nevatim and see the landscaping, the squares and the public buildings, you have to be amazed, especially since it is in the heart of the desert." 

The spectacular performance following the greetings and speeches presented the special features of daily life in Nevatim, with dramatic acts, songs and dances accenting the agricultural development of Nevatim and the vision for its advancement and future development.

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