Situated near the southern city of Ofakim, ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran is Israel’s most comprehensive provider of residential and rehabilitative care. The village, which is home to more than 150 children and young adults with severe disabilities and complex medical conditions, prides itself on delivering excellent medical and therapeutic care that can be hard to find in this region of the country.
With the demand for rehabilitative services continuing to grow, Jewish National Fund-USA and MAKOM are establishing a one-of-a-kind, student-led MAKOM community at ADI Negev. MAKOM is a JNF-USA affiliate in Israel that represents over 200 communities that are revitalizing their cities, towns and villages throughout Israel.
“The MAKOM community at ADI Negev is special because it is made of students who are studying the kinds of professions that ADI Negev needs—therapists and all different kinds of people who are going into helping professions,” said Dr. Beth Banks Cohn of Manalapan, who serves as the Chair of JNF-USA’s MAKOM Task Force. “The goal is for these students to be building a relationship within the community so that when they graduate, they’ll not only want to continue working at ADI Negev but they’ll want to continue living in the area and really become part of the fabric of the community.”
The MAKOM model encourages young people to move to the country’s periphery—either to the Galilee in the north, the Negev in the south, or the socioeconomic periphery in central parts of the country—and create significant entrepreneurial-social activity in those areas, all while developing a supportive and young community.
“MAKOM is, in many ways, Zionism 2.0,” Cohn said. “The challenges for the first Zionists were about the land—working the land, making it habitable, creating towns, villages, and cities. Zionism now is about making sure that everyone that lives in Israel has the opportunity for a great quality of life.”
Cohn noted that MAKOM communities really represent the spectrum of Israeli society, and include Druze, Arab and Bedouin communities. “They have done what many in Israeli society have not been able to do: They sit around the table together and work on common problems and find common ground and work through issues where they do not agree, but do have a common interest in solving the problems that face their communities,” she said. The unique nature of the community at ADI Negev will benefit both the residents of the village, as well as the students who will gain professional work experience there.
The founder and president of the ADRA Change Architects consulting firm, Cohn first heard about JNF-USA’s work at a Shabbat dinner at Marlboro Jewish Center in 2013. She and her husband, Jules, were intrigued. “We were really unaware of much of the work that JNF-USA was doing—we really thought it was just trees,” she said. “When we found out that they were involved in so many different areas, we thought that it was an organization that we’d like to get more involved in.”
Cohn said that she originally chose to become involved with the MAKOM Task Force because it aligned closely with her values, and she saw the potential to make a real difference. Now, with a front row seat to the changes that are taking place on the ground in Israel, she is looking forward to what the future holds.
“It gives me hope,” she said. “It shows me the future of Israel is incredibly bright, and one of the reasons is because of the work that the MAKOM communities do from the very top of the country to the very bottom.”
By Rachel Jager