Through the Eyes of Eyal (A Modern Pioneer) in Halutzit

Building a town from nothing

Following Israel’s evacuation of Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip in 2008, I moved to the sand dunes of Halutzit in the Western Negev Desert, an area that had been uninhabited since the dawn of civilisation.

We wanted to rebuild a community, but all we had was a blank canvas in front of us: sand, sand and more sand. It was scary yet exciting. We started out by living in caravans for the first few years, whilst looking for financial partners as visionary as us to help with residential accommodation. We also needed funds to build a security road, our high school, as well as the boarding school and we needed help to secure funding for our leadership teaching building. We wanted people to believe in us and it was an incredible feeling to know that the Jewish community in Great Britain (through JNF UK) was moved by our project and was a true partner in building our small town.

Today, students come from other parts of Israel and abroad, including Britain and the USA, to study at our world-class yeshiva and this will encourage more young people to come from Israel and overseas to be pioneers in the Negev. This is a true partnership between the people of Israel and the Jewish people everywhere. We couldn’t have done it on our own.

We are a predominantly orthodox religious community and serve in the Israel Defence Forces as well as study. We also have people with a non-religious outlook in our community and we all live together in mutual respect and harmony with a common pioneering goal.

Thanks to the support of JNF UK who helped us develop our land for agricultural use, we have also been able to create a viable source of income: we grow carrots, potatoes and organic peppers (yes, in the middle of the desert!), some of which you may see on the shelves of your local supermarket. It is also likely that the etrog you hold at Succot in synagogue comes from Halutzit.

Our proximity to the Egyptian border helps fortify the area against the smuggling of people, drugs and weapons. Indeed so much of our daily experience recalls the stories we heard from our pioneering grandparents of the days before and just after the birth of the State of Israel. It is our response on the ground to the clarion call of David Ben-Gurion over 60 years ago to turn the Negev into the crucible of Israel’s future and secure it for generations to come and we are privileged to live this dream every day of our lives.

Thank you for helping us to build our town from nothing but our vision and your generosity.