Land Grants Will Help Develop Negev, Arava

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JERUSALEM, Israel - A proposed agricultural land-grant program will help new Israeli families interested in farming for a living.

The proposal calls for 100 20-acre land grants for new immigrants in communities in southern Israel, the Galilee and the Golan Heights. That may not sound like much land, but in Israel it is.

Over the next decade, Agricultural Minister Shalom Simhon would like the government to help establish 100 new farming families annually.

Acceptance committees on each kibbutz or moshav (agricultural communities) will interview prospective families to make sure it's a fit both for the family and the community.

The proposal specifies that at least 11 of the 20 acres be used for growing crops. Families will also receive financial help with infrastructure, water quotas and training.

"One of the Agriculture Ministry's main aims is to train the next generation of Israeli farmers," Simhon said.

"Though it is not easy being a farmer, agriculture is still an attractive option even for the young generation," he said.

The new proposal received mixed reviews, according to YNet news.

One farmer said the water shortages in the desert make the proposal "a joke." He also said there's a land shortage in his community.

But others are in favor of the land grants.

"One of the greatest Zionist acts is to settle the Negev - and more than that to farm the Negev. If new farmers come, it will greatly improve the area," one farmer, who grows tomatoes, said.

"It's very hard work. On one hand, expenses have risen significantly. On the other hand, there is a price freeze for most of the year. But the most important thing is production, quality of life and the experience of doing it," he said.

The government will hold a special session in 10 days at Kibbutz Deganya in the Galilee, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, to approve the land grant proposal.

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YNet news contributed to this report.

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