The image of Israel as a rural, agricultural nation with hard workers in the fields of the kibbutz, or communal settlement, is one that persists around the world. But as the country shifted towards a high-tech economy and cities swelled in the 1980’s, many of Israel’s rural workers were simply left behind. JDC created Maavarim (Hebrew for ‘transitions’) to help these agricultural experts learn the skills they need to survive in the Israel’s new, modern economy.
JDC established the first Maavarim Center in the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council in 1999 — well before TEVET had been established. Since then, Maavarim has grown to include six centers across Israel, with each one serving between two and four rural Regional Councils. The program has helped over 18,000 rural workers find their way in a changing Israel.
Maavarim tackles the problem of unemployed rural workers in three ways. The program aims to enhance each person’s individual employment skills; it strengthens rural communities by creating local employment resources; and it pools regional resources to create employment strategies and infrastructures.
In 2007, Maavarim expanded to include the Bedouin village of Hura, tucked in the Negev desert. Staff soon realized that while the rural profile of Hura residents matched the services of Maavarim, Bedouins also faced unique employment challenges. It was this knowledge that sparked the development and growth of Alfanar, a new, JDC-guided NGO that leads more than 20 Arab Employment Centers in the country.
Israel will always have its agricultural roots. But with Maavarim, the people tending those roots won’t be left behind as the country grows and thrives.