The Miracle at Mitzpe

In the small desert town of Mitzpe Ramon, far from the glittering lights of Ramat HaHayal – the Madison Avenue of Tel Aviv – JNF UK and advertising agency McCann Erickson are pioneering a digital revolution.

The Negev is an unlikely location for a corporate behemoth to establish itself. Unemployment rates are high. Crime afflicts smaller communities.

Mitzpe Ramon, 50 miles south of Be’er Sheva, is typical of towns in the Negev. Established in 1951 by Olim from North Africa, the community has historically depended on tourists drawn to the crater (“Israel’s Grand Canyon”) for which it’s named. The unemployment rate is double the national average.

Yet it’s here that McCann Erickson has established itself; far from the glittering lights of Ramat HaHayal, the Madison Avenue of Tel Aviv. Three times voted Global Advertising Agency of the Year, McCann is a global leader in its field.

McCann settled here because of Michal Romi. Romi grew up here, and as she explains, the town ‘is in my veins’.

McCann Valley manages social media accounts for some of Israel’s biggest brands. In a digital economy companies can manage their businesses from anywhere. So why not settle in the most beautiful desert on earth?

With the help of JNF UK, Romi is working to establish the Mitzpe Ramon Business and Technology Hub – a state-of-the-art advertising, media and digital centre.

JNF UK is working to ensure the spread of the Hub concept to other towns – a concept that promises to provide young residents of the Negev career opportunities outside the traditional mainstays of tourism and agriculture.

There are many, many lacks. Lack of healthcare, lack of education, lack of culture, but this project is a game-changer for the town and the region.

It’s a miracle this is happening. When JNF UK got involved this was just an illusion; building a digital revolution in the desert, a crazy idea. It was hard to convince people to come here, but JNF UK really believed in this.

Traditionally the Negev’s best and brightest have left the region for Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on graduating high school. The JNF UK Hub is a small but significant step in reversing this brain-drain, drawing professionals away from Israel’s centre and into the Negev.

The Zionist pioneers of the past ventured into the desert equipped with shovels and spades. Today’s pioneers wield iPads. JNF UK is proud to support this initiative, one that promises to revolutionise the economy of the Negev.