In January 2019, a delegation from Boulder, Colorado traveled to Ramat HaNegev, Israel for the official sister city signing ceremony. We engaged with community leaders for a week of building people-to-people relationships, learning, exchanging ideas, sharing food and conversation, creating collaborative programs, and enjoying outdoor recreation.
Ramat HaNegev – Day 1
We hiked through the picturesque desert terrain of the Nahal Haverim Canyon. 45% of the Ramat HaNegev region is nature reserves and national parks.
We visited with Salem, a local Bedouin leader. Our delegation enjoyed dinner and conversation in a traditional Bedouin tent. The Ramat HaNegev region’s Bedouin population includes approximately 1,000 people.
Also during our first day in Ramat HaNegev, we toured the Ramat HaNegev Regional Council facilities, enjoyed lunch at Kornmehl Goat Cheese Farm, and visited David Ben-Gurion’s burial site. As Israel’s first Prime Minister, Ben-Gurion’s vision was to populate, develop, and preserve the Negev.
Ramat HaNegev – Day 2
On our second day, we toured the site of Ramat HaNegev’s first public high school with Dr. Sefi Malkior, Manager of the Education Division of Ramat Negev. Currently, high school students ride the bus for three hours each day or pay for private school education. The new high school will open in Fall 2019.
We were eager to learn about Ramat HaNegev’s sustainable desert agricultural practices at the Ramat HaNegev Desert AgroResearch Center. Staff at the research center study and educate the community about interactions between specific crops and the local ecosystem. We tasted delicious strawberries, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
We met with residents of the new community of Sheizaf, where families from religious and secular backgrounds live together. We learned about the Ashalim Solar Thermal Power Station and explored the expansive Ramon Crater (Makhtesh Ramon). We met with representatives from the Search & Rescue team, which includes 80 volunteers. Finally, the Regional Council hosted our official sister city signing ceremony with Ramat HaNegev’s Mayor Eran Doron and Boulder City Council Member Bob Yates.
Ramat HaNegev – Day 3
We spent the morning visiting the Nitzana Educational Village, located near the Israel-Egyptian border. We had the privilege of meeting with students, faculty, and staff of the Neve Midbar leadership and boarding school for Bedouin youth.
We learned about the challenges of farming in the desert at the Yosef family organic farm. We explored rows of crops that contained various fruits and vegetables, picked carrots, and sampled the local produce being delivered to families across the Ramat HaNegev region.
At the Nitzana Educational Village, youth from diverse backgrounds live and learn together in an atmosphere that emphasizes tolerance, mutual understanding, and respect for themselves, each other, and the natural world. We met with the Director of the Nitzana Educational Village, David Palmach, and learned about the diverse community of youth who study and live there. For lunch, we feasted on shawarma and vegetables at a local food truck. We concluded our daytime activities with sandboarding at Shivta sand dunes.
Ramat HaNegev – Day 4
Guided by local artists, our delegation designed ceramic mosaic tiles that display iconic attributes of Boulder. These tiles will form part of a mosaic wall commemorating the sister city partnership between Boulder and Ramat HaNegev.
We met with faculty and staff from the Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel & Zionism at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. They led us through the Ben-Gurion Archives, which contain some of David Ben-Gurion’s original writings.
Following our visit to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, we hiked with a family of ibex through Ein Avdat National Park. The young adults who visited Colorado on a delegation in December hosted a BBQ for us at the Sde Boker Kibbutz pub. We were treated to “poike,” a traditional meat and vegetable stew cooked outdoors in a cast iron pot.
Ramat HaNegev – Day 5
On our last day, we visited the Madgera Startup Hatchery. Together, with Madgera’s co-founder Lion David, we discussed collaborative programs for our communities to foster innovation and entrepreneurship.
Later, while touring Kibbutz Revivim, we learned about some of the first female residents of the Kibbutz. Kibbutz Revivim formed in 1943 in the Negev, and is now home to approximately 1,000 residents who share strong community values. Kibbutz Revivim has also become an innovative center for desert agriculture.