Developing the Arava

The Arava region, which is divided into the Central and Southern regions, is the desert valley that extends from the Dead Sea to Eilat, along Israel's border with Jordan. Most Arava residents rely on farming for a living, and KKL-JNF's know-how helps them thrive.
"The wilderness and the parched land shall be glad; and the Arava shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose" (Isaiah 35:1).

Map of KKL-JNF projects in Arava communities

KKL-JNF, with the help of Friends worldwide, helps transform the Arava


The Arava in Photos - Now and Then

From an ancient spice route to modern, cutting-edge agriculture. So much promise from so little natural resources, the Arava is where fertile minds meet barren soil.

Sixty years on, it's hard to believe that the farmers of the Arava have produced more than half of Israel's agricultural exports, despite its harsh environment, and a continuing generation has been raised in the vibrant communities of the Arava.

Indeed, it all started some 60 years ago, when people of vision, true Zionists, chose to build their lives in the Arava.

These photographs, preserved by KKL-JNF's Photo Archive, speak for themselves, reflecting the Arava's accomplishments, which KKL-JNF helped make possible by preparing land for agriculture and housing; supporting R&D centers; building water reservoirs and security and agricultural roads; and creating tourism initiatives and facilities.

All this, thanks to the dedicated support of KKL-JNF friends and partners in Israel and throughout the world. Dozens of families have joined the Arava's rural communities, where they enjoy a supportive social environment and a rich cultural life. Each day sees new developments; enthusiasm drives the Arava's wheels of activity.
KKL-JNF water reservoir in the Arava. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

KKL-JNF for the Arava

The Arava region consists of the Central Arava (known as the Central Arava Regional Council) and the Southern Arava (known as the Eilot Regional Council), and KKL-JNF, together with its Friends worldwide, is a partner in developing the region's tourism and agriculture, which are essential to its economy.

The Central Arava Regional Council extends over 1500 square kilometers, 6% of Israel's land, just west of the border with Jordan. The closest urban community is 130 km away, making the Central Arava one of the most peripheral regions in the country. The regional council includes seven communities, five moshavim and two community settlements, inhabited by some 3,500 people (about 800 families).

Most of the residents make their living growing vegetables and flowers for export, despite the region's harsh climate. Thanks to research, creativity, faith and daring the Arava farmers have succeeded undeterred by the difficult conditions. The region prides itself on its modern, environmentally friendly agriculture, which provides a major proportion of Israel’s vegetables and fruit for export.

KKL-JNF has been involved with Central Arava communities from its earliest stages helping with land preparation for agriculture and housing, agricultural roads, infrastructure for agriculture and tourism, playgrounds, landscaping and water reservoirs, and supporting cutting-edge agricultural research at the Yair Research and Development Station.

KKL-JNF continues to be active partners in the development of the Central Arava communities to this day – developing infrastructure for new expansions of existing communities, to allow them to absorb new families. We have also diversified our involvement to include tourist projects to boost the local economy.


The Eilot Regional Council is the southernmost regional council in Israel, extending over 220,000 hectares and including twelve communities (ten kibbutzim and two community settlements), inhabited by some 3,500 people. Most of the residents make their living from modern, state of the art agriculture and tourism.

The region is characterized by diverse renewable energy projects, many of them supported by KKL-JNF. It has the highest concentration of solar energy fields in Israel, the first of which was built by the Arava Power Company located at Kibbutz Ketura. To date, the Eilot Regional Council provides 50% of the energy requirements of the city of Eilat and envisions a renewable energy "silicon valley" in the Southern Arava.

KKL-JNF also partners with the Southern Arava R&D Station in Yotvata, which researches ways of improving existing crops and developing new technologies and cultivars for desert agriculture.

KKL-JNF continues to develop unique tourism sites and tourism infrastructure, including the famous Timna Park and the Ramon Airport.


Research and Development Stations

One of KKL-JNF's most important projects is supporting regional Research and Development (R&D) stations in agricultural regions throughout Israel. These stations aim to develop new crops and improve farming techniques for existing ones. This helps farmers in peripheral parts of the country compete successfully in the global produce market. These stations exploit the natural potential of peripheral regions: climate, soil, varieties of water sources and worker quality and employ field advisors and noted researchers who work in cooperation with national academic institutes.

A melon field in the Arava. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo ArchiveA melon field in the Arava. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

A melon field in the Arava. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

The R&Ds take on special significance in the Arava, where most residents rely on farming to make a living. KKL-JNF and its Friends worldwide support applied research in the Arava's two R&D stations: the Central and Northern Arava R&D, which operates the Yair Experimental Station in Moshav Hatseva in the Central Arava Regional Council, and the Southern Arava R&D in Kibbutz Yotvata in the Eilot Regional Council.

The Yair Station, which was established in 1986 as part of the Negev-Arava R&D program, focuses on seven major topics: vegetables, ornamentals, plant-protection, orchards, organic agriculture, ornamental fishery, and produce quality in the harsh desert climate. Research at the station emphasizes developing new vegetable strains and healthy foods. JNF Canada, Australia and United States have partnered to establish new laboratories and research facilities for organic agriculture, as well as contributing new laboratory equipment for the Central & Northern Arava Research and Development Station at Hatseva that has significantly improved the facility.

The equipment has upgraded ongoing R&D activities to support and advance agriculture in the region, one of Israel's main farming areas. As part of its outlook on the development of modern agriculture as a basis for community development, the R&D is there to provide help for local farmers, applying its research in practical farming situations.

In recent years, alongside extensive research in agriculture, a strong scientific research division has developed, focusing the exploration of the desert's natural assets in the discovery of new drugs for curing human diseases.
Currently, and with the support of KKL-JNF, plans are underway for expanding the building that houses the R&D's laboratories.


The Southern Arava R&D Station operates in the most arid area in Israel, resulting from a combination of low rainfall and the constraint to use only brackish water from local bores for irrigation. The station focuses on developing suitable technology for sustainable farming in these unique conditions. Agriculture is a major element in the economy of the Eilot Regional Council with whom the station works: it comprises close to 40% of the regional economy. Close to 4500 acres (140,000 hectares), are farmed in the region. Research focuses primarily on topics related to date cultivation, the major crop, but also on vegetables, flowers, effective irrigation, use of agricultural waste and production of nutritional supplements from medicinal plants. Studies cover varied technological topics, mainly related to storage and packaging, and many concentrate on the use of brackish water for irrigation. Much of the research conducted at the station is directed at improving food security in other desert regions in the world.

Visit the Southern Arava R&D website (English language)

Arava International Centre for Agriculture Training (AICAT)

The Arava International Centre for Agriculture Training (AICAT) offers training in sophisticated arid land agriculture to students from developing countries. The training centre is internationally renowned for its course in agriculture, and some 1,000 students from eight Asian countries study at the Sapir Regional Centre campus. AICAT provides an invaluable contribution to developing countries and their students as well as additional employment opportunities for local residents and extra working hands for the local agricultural industry. KKL-JNF is participating in a project to build new dormitories for the program's students.
Lecture in progress at AICAT. Photo: Yoav Devir

Renewable Energy

In addition to its historic support for agriculture in peripheral areas, such as the Central and Southern Arava, KKL-JNF is looking ahead to the future and focusing on renewable energy in the region. The combination of modern agriculture and renewable energy will have a significant impact on improving food security.

Four different institutions are involved in studying and developing renewable energy sources in southern Israel: the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center, the Ben Gurion University Campus in Eilat and the Southern Arava R&D Station. The Eilat-Elot Renewable Energy Administration was established in 2008 and it focuses on research and innovation and aims to become a source of employment for new residents of the area.

KKL-JNF's biggest renewable energy project yet was the development of the Renewable Energies Center in Kibbutz Yotvata, which was built with the support of Friends of JNF USA and JNF Australia, as well as other contributors. The new building of the energy center ws completed in the summer of 2015, and includes an auditorium, R&D laboratories and a visitor's center.
The building was constructed on the basis of environmental principles. The doors are made of glass, in order to provide natural light and save electricity, and they are double glazed for insulation, in order to prevent heat and use less air conditioning. Solar panels produce electrical energy from sunlight and provide for most of the energy consumed at the center.

One of the first major events at the Renewable Energies Center was a study day entitled Energy in the Near Future.

KKL-JNF is involved in other alternative energy projects in the region, including a wind farm at Ma'ale Shaharut, environmental construction at Lotan, Ketura and Ne'ot Smadar and an ecological village at Ketura.

Community Development

KKL-JNF has accompanied the agricultural communities of the Arava since the begining, preparing land for agriculture, farming, and housing, and more recently, supporting innovative projects in the fields of renewable energy and eco-tourism. The following is a list of the Arava communities from north to south, profiling the positive impact KKL-JNF has had on their advancement, thanks to the support of its Friends worldwide.
  • Moshav Idan

    Moshav Idan, founded in 1980 by immigrants from Canada and the United States, now has 320 members (69 families), most of whom make a living from agriculture and tourist related industries.
  • Moshav Hatseva - Yair Research and Development Station

    Moshav Hatseva was founded in 1965 and now has a population of 485 (about 150 families). Most of the residents make a living from agriculture and tourism. Moshav Hatseva houses the Yair R&D and the Vidor Visitor's Center, which was built with the support of Friends of JNF Australia.
  • Moshav Ein Yahav

    Moshav En Yahav, founded in 1962, was the first farming community in the Arava and is one of the Arava Valley farming communities that established the Clean Arava project, a regional initiative to control and eliminate quarantine pests in the region.
  • Sapir Regional Center

    The Sapir Regional Center was founded in 1978 as a community settlement intended to provide as a service center for the agricultural communities in the Central Arava and a home for non-agricultural residents of the region.
  • Moshav Tsofar

    Moshav Tsofar, founded in 1981, is comprised of some 93 families. Like other farming communities in the Arava it is dependant entirely on advanced agriculture. The homes of Tsofar are located on the west side of the Arava road, while most of its agricultural land lies east of the Jordanian border and continues to be leased from Jordan, in the context of the 1994 Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty.
  • Tsukim, Community and Artist's Village

    Tsukim was established in 2004 as a tourism-based community in the central Arava. In addition to having helped create a unique desert resort for tourists, KKL-JNF has helped the community of Tsukim to further grow by preparing land for housing, increasing the number of families from sixty-seven to one hundred fifty-five.
  • Moshav Paran

    Moshav Paran comprises some 85 families, with 235 children. Numerous projects ensuring that this desert border community grows and thrives have been made possible by KKL Holland.
  • Kibbutz Yahel

    Yahel, the first kibbutz affiliated with the Progressive Judaism Movement was founded in 1976 and is today home to about 200 people. Kibbutz Yahel in the Southern Arava is located about 70 km north of Eilat, and about 2 km west of the Jordanian border.
  • Kibbutz Neot Smadar

    Kibbutz Neot Smadar is located in the Southern Negev Desert of Israel, about 60 km north of Eilat. The Kibbutz was established in 1989 by a group of friends interested in creating a learning community that focuses on cooperation and creativity in daily life.
  • Kibbutz Neve Harif

    Kibbutz Neve Harif, belonging to Eilot regional council, is located 75 km to the north of Eilat. It is a secular agricultural kibbutz, with 25 families. The social-communal way of life in the kibbutz combines kibbutz ideology with the modern daily reality.
  • Kibbutz Lotan

    Lotan is a pluralistic kibbutz in the Southern Arava which was founded in 1983 by Israeli and American youths who built a community based on pluralistic, egalitarian and creative Jewish values while protecting the environment. The community is home to over 150 people from around the world including families and their children, volunteers, and students.
This is a developing section, where we will continually add information on more communities and more projects, so keep checking our Community Development section on this page!


Check out these unforgettable places to visit in the Arava, developed by KKL-JNF:
  • Arava Peace Road - Drive along the Israel-Jordan Border

    Farming communities and picturesque landscapes: This fascinating driving route follows the border between Israel and Jordan. The look-out points along the way offer stunning views of cultivated fields, the Edom mountians and the Arava streambed.
  • Timna Park

    Timna Park, in the heart of the southern Arava in southern Israel, offers a historical and geological experience amid a primordial landscape. Hiking, walking and biking for all the family.

The Arava has more to offer than its natural beauty. Visitors to the Arava communities are inspired by their innovation and pioneership in the fields of sustainability, renewable energy and food security. The eco-agri tourism projects listed below are supported by KKL-JNF and its Friends worldwide:
  • The Ramon Airport near Timna

    With the support of its friends worldwide, KKL-JNF is carrying out essential earthworks for the new Eilat airport near Timna, which will protect its runways from flooding.
  • The Vidor Center

    The interactive experience at the Vidor Center in Moshav Hatseva offers gives visitors the opportunity to learn about desertification, Arava flora and fauna, and the development of communities and agriculture in the region.