By Daniel Horowitz--Over 20 years ago, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto recognized that the socio-economic gaps emerging between central Israel and its geographic frontier were one of the country’s most critical strategic challenges. In 1988, UJA took the bold step of creating a partnership with Israel’s most geographically remote region, and made key, long-term investments in a place where these gaps were very serious – Eilat and Eilot.
There are five components to UJA’s strategy in Eilat and Eilot:
• Promoting Higher Education
• Promoting the Educational System
• Promoting Renewable Energy
• Promoting Career Development Services
• Promoting Health Care
Last month, UJA’s ongoing investment in the Region yielded yet more dividends, when it was announced that the Arava Group, initiated by Ben-Gurion University, and the Eilat-Eilot municipality, won a tender from the Israeli Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor to establish and operate a technology centre for renewable energy in the south of the country.
The Eilat-Eilot group’s bid was chosen over that of the National Renewable Energy Centre Group by the country’s Chief’s Scientist’s Committee.
Eilat-Eilot’s renewable energy technology centre will be built in the Arava region, just north of Eilat, part of the Eilot Regional Council administration. The winning consortium will invest NIS 57 million, more than $16 million CAD, in the new centre over the next five years while matching funds will be provided by Israel’s Chief Scientist, according to the contract with the Israel government.
“Promoting the development of a renewable energy industry in Eilat and Eilot has been a primary component of Toronto’s strategy for strengthening and transforming the region into a centre of opportunity,” said Lorri Kushnir, chair, along with Morland Brown, of UJA Federation’s Partnership 2000 initiative, which partners Toronto with the Eilat-Eilot Region. “Winning this tender is an incredible vote of confidence by the Government of Israel in what the Region has been able to develop in a mere four-year period. Not only does the tender allow the Region to establish and operate a new renewable energy technology centre, thereby providing Eilat and Eilot with the base from which to become a leader in renewable energy development and technology. It also enables the Region’s leaders to harness its vast natural assets -- land and sun - for the benefit of all of citizens. It was an honour and joy for our Committee to have played a role in realizing this dream.”
“By winning the tender, many professionals in the field of renewable energy will be moving to Eilot/Eilat and will be bringing their families with them,” said Brown. “This will help change the demographic nature of the region by introducing a more diverse population not dependent on agriculture or tourism. Also, these new families will require services in the region, not the least of which is housing. These requirements will help increase economic activity in the region.”
The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor praised the new technology centre, expecting it to encourage technological entrepreneurship in the cleantech centre and create frameworks for assistance to entrepreneurs who are starting out, require direction and need funding for their business plans.
“Renewable energy will generate job opportunities for the residents and make us leaders in the global effort to sustain our planet. All of these factors will contribute to establishing the region as the silicon valley of renewable energy,” says Udi Gat, Chair of the Eilat Regional Council. “Toronto’s Jewish community was the first to believe in the Renewable Energy Project.”