Realizing Ben-Gurion’s Vision

April 16, 2018

Negev Development & Community Programs

By Toni Young, Americans for Ben-Gurion University President

The Jerusalem Report – When I first spent time in the Negev, as opposed to rushing through it on a tour bus, I was captivated by the magic and potential of this vast area, which includes some 60 percent of the land mass of Israel and only about 10 percent of Israel’s population. I immediately felt the energy of the people and the power of the geography.

Two decades later, I believe that David Ben-Gurion was right when he said, “The future of Israel lies in the Negev.” Today, it’s important to add, the future of the Negev depends on Ben-Gurion University (BGU), the engine driving growth in the Negev.

Americans for Ben-Gurion University President Toni Young

In Arad, Beer-Sheva and throughout the Negev, I met people who were willing to live without some daily comforts in order to try to improve the world. They believed in their ability to make change and equally important, they believed anything was possible. They demonstrated an intriguing mixture of idealism and pragmatism.

David Ben-Gurion once said, “The difficult we do immediately, the impossible takes a little longer.” The people I know in the Negev embody that spirit of commitment and perseverance.

The first time I stood quietly in the dry sands of the Negev with the intense sun beating down on me, the desert appeared to expand forever. The clear sky was so close that it dominated the landscape. A profound silence pervaded everything. I felt I was an insignificant human confronted by the power of the universe. No wonder Judaism and other great religions were founded in the desert, I thought. And no wonder this environment makes you understand the basics that all human beings need for a well-lived life.

Today, Beer-Sheva and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev are a dynamic hub of innovation. Here, we see and feel the outlines of our humanists, students, world-renowned high-tech companies, and the elite divisions of the Israel Defense Forces that are coming to Ben-Gurion University, its adjacent Advanced Technologies Park, and the Negev. There’s a synergy between all of them that ensures rapid growth.

Three years ago, there were 100 high-tech employees in Beer-Sheva; today there are 2,000, and by 2024, we anticipate there will be 7,000 high-tech employees, of whom a significant number will be BGU alumni. Many people now refer to BGU and Beer-Sheva as “Silicon Wadi….”

Read the full article (PDF) from The Jerusalem Report >>