The city of Eilat and the surrounding rural region of Eilot cover 13% of Israel’s land resources, but are home to only 0.7% of the population.
Due to the region’s geographic remoteness – far from the urban centers and professional opportunities of central Israel – it suffers from a lack of educational facilities and medical services, as well as limited employment possibilities. Most local people are employed in low-paying jobs in tourism and agriculture.
UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s partnership with Eilat-Eilot dates back to 1997. Its involvement is focused on three main areas -- education, innovation and healthcare. Current investments include the following:
The Eilat campus of Ben Gurion University
With over 1,000 students in various tracks, BGU Eilat is Israel’s fastest growing campus. Before its establishment in 2002, there were no real opportunities for higher education in Eilat. This effectively meant that only well-off residents could afford to study for a bachelor’s degree. Not only does the Eilat campus provide opportunities for locals, it also brings skilled young adults to the area.
UJA Toronto funded construction of the campus’s first dormitory building, which offers affordable housing to students who move to Eilat to study. It is also helping to develop innovative degree courses in renewable energy and marine biology.
UJA Toronto offers tuition scholarships to students studying at the Eilat campus. In return for assistance, students volunteer within the community throughout the year, mostly tutoring underprivileged children.
With significant support from UJA Toronto, Eilat-Eilot has established itself as a leader in the field of alternative energy. The region has created a world-class research and development center, as well as a renewable energy incubator which encourages and nurtures private investment. These programs are drawing highly-qualified professionals to the region and will create an estimated 400 new jobs over the next three years.
The annual international conference on renewable energy held in Eilat attracts some 2,000 delegates, including investors, entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers and policy-makers.
Marine biology and bio-technology
UJA Toronto is working to create a new employment sector in Eilat in these fields.
Yoseftal hospital is the only advanced medical facility in the southern Negev. It provides medical care to the region’s 55,000 residents, as well as to the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit Eilat each year. It also treats Israeli soldiers serving in and around Eilat, as well as trauma victims involved in traffic and other accidents.
UJA Toronto is playing a major role in upgrading and modernizing the hospital’s medical infrastructure and human resources, in order to provide a level of service equivalent to that provided in the center of Israel. It has funded a new, much-needed emergency wing at Yoseftal. It has also developed various incentive programs which are successfully attracting doctors and nurses to Eilat.
These initiatives are creating additional educational and employment opportunities in Eilat and Eilot, in order to encourage skilled residents to stay and to attract highly-qualified newcomers. In time, this will create a fundamental demographic change in the region.