My name is Michael Biton, and I was born in 1970 in Yeruham. I grew up and was educated in what was then a poverty-stricken small town in the Negev, and after completing my military service, I came back to my hometown as a community organiser, educator and head of the community centre. Yerucham has been plagued with lack of opportunities, negative immigration, as well as high levels of unemployment and poverty for years. I quickly understood that my mission in life was to improve Yerucham and bring my hometown to its full potential, and running for Mayor was the first step towards this goal.
A Mayor’s Story: My Dream for Yerucham
Since my election in 2012, I have been busy looking forward, with the objective of doubling Yerucham’s population by 2025. I fought many battles to bring Yerucham to where it is today: A town which is making incredible progress in becoming an alternative place to live for young families who are unable to afford the cost of housing in the centre of Israel.
The way to achieve this is by developing new neighbourhoods, creating new places of work by attracting employers to the area, building community centres, attracting students to live and contribute to the community, build recreational facilities and green areas, open childhood centres, offer support to special needs children, while at the same time maintaining and improving the state of the existing infrastructure. Needless to say that Yerucham’s ambitions are higher than its municipal budget.
“This is something that Yerucham cannot do it on its own. I have therefore searched for partners to fund our dream, and while the government was of some help, partners such as JNF UK have been instrumental in our growth.”
Since 2012, JNF UK has helped with the following projects:
• A childhood centre, catering for special needs children
• A subsidised daycare centre, allowing mothers to go back to work, breaking the circle of poverty
• Renovation of rundown kindergartens
• Building a music school, to broaden the cultural appetite of Yerucham’s youngsters
• Building a student village, offering free accommodation in exchange for tutoring and community work in the town
• Opening a leadership programme campus, whose participants volunteer in the community
• Opening of a design terminal, bringing creative minds to the region in order to create new employment opportunities.
These are life-changing projects for our population, and I hope that JNF UK’s donors are aware of how much good they are generating. I would like to invite you to come and see Yerucham with your own eyes. As far as we are concerned, it is definitely your second home.