Jewish National Fund Hosts Alternative Spring Break


“A little free time goes a long way. It doesn’t take much to make a difference.” ~ MTV on the Jewish National Fund’s Alternative Spring Break in Israel program.

Alternative Spring Break 2008

This year, hundreds of young adults will come to Israel in pursuit of David Ben Gurion’s goal: to make the desert bloom. Volunteering with the Jewish National Fund’s Alternative Spring Break program, participants will work in one of the Negev’s 25 developing communities as part of the JNF’s Blueprint Negev campaign.

Operation Northern Renewal

In its third year, the JNF returns to the Negev, having sent last year’s participants north as part of Operation Northern Renewal, a campaign to help Israel recover from the damage done during the Second Lebanon War. Together they planted trees, cleared forest damaged by fire, painted bomb shelters, and raised $215,000 dollars to forward recovery efforts.

During previous spring breaks, groups engaged in the following:

  • Neighborhood beautification projects
  • Tree planting
  • Learning about ecological solutions to environmental problems
  • Visiting the sick
  • Playing with children in a Purim carnival

Raising Funds to Participate

Although heavily sponsored by the JNF and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, participants must raise $1,050 of their own. Participants are given the opportunity to join fundraising teams to help support their efforts. Click here to download the JNF’s excellent fundraising guide for Alternative Spring Breakers.

Not in the right age bracket but still want to volunteer to help promote Israel’s natural beauty? See the JNF’s other travel and volunteer opportunities here.


About the Negev

  • The Negev region of Israel is located in the south below Tel Aviv and Jerusalem
  • The Negev desert spans more than 4,600 square miles, occupying almost 60% of Israel’s land mass
  • Although Israel’s size is often compared to that of New Jersey, this doesn’t take into consideration the fact that the majority of its land is desert
    • If you look at the map above, everything south of Jerusalem is considered desert
  • Be’er Sheva, the capitol of the Negev, is Israel’s fourth largest city
  • 70% of Israelis live in the area around Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa, driving property values so high that many families cannot afford to buy homes there, or even find adequate housing
  • Today, some 379,000 Jews and 175,000 Bedouins live in Israel’s Negev region

Wishing you a happy Cheshvan!

(The second month in the Jewish calendar)

13 Responses to Jewish National Fund Hosts Alternative Spring Break

  1. Julia says:

    I am curious to know how many Spring Break attendees are aware that in order to make the “desert bloom” in the Negev/Naqab, the homes and “unrecognized” villages of the Bedouin who have lived on this land prior to the creation of the state of Israel are being demolished. The inhabitants of these “unrecognized” villages are denied all basic services available to Jewish settlements and are being coerced into moving into planned townships, which also lack basic services and suitable land for the Bedouin to practice traditional livelihoods. I encourage those who intend to participate in the alternative spring break to do a bit of research into the policies of the Israel Land Administration and the JNF, consider the recent Human Rights Watch report on Israel’s development of the Negev available at, , and to think critically about what type of development you might wish to be a part of.

  2. Maya Norton says:

    Hi Julia,

    You make a good point about being aware of the rights of Bedouins in unrecognized villages and in general. It certainly is important that anyone living in the Negev region, who cares about Israel, or who does a program like this is aware of such issues.

    On the other hand, I don’t agree with you at all that developing the Negev is mutually exclusive with the rights for the Bedouin people. Take for example the major university in the south: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. They are doing great things for Bedouin students. There are also many non-profit organizations working on their behalf. Let me know if you’d like examples and I’ll try to provide.

    Thanks for your comment,


  3. After reading this article, I just feel that I really need more information on the topic. Could you suggest some more resources ?

  4. […] “Jewish National Fund Hosts Alternative Spring Break” – learn more about the Negev, Center/Periphery dichotomies, as well as the JNF’s Blueprint Negev initiative […]

  5. Maya Norton says:

    Dear Meshullam,

    Your response was deleted because it was not related to this post.

    ~ Maya

  6. Maya Norton says:

    Dear Adrian,

    Your comment, while interesting, was not related to this entry or the comment of the blog. It has been deleted.

    ~ Maya

  7. Scott Griswold says:

    Your blog is an interesting read. It contains many interesting activities and programs. I would like to send my son to attend some of them. Alas, he is not Jewish and most likely would not even be considered. Since I cannot live in Israel or take part in any of the activities your site lists (I am not Jewish either), nor can any of my family, I suppose I will just have to content myself by writing a check in support of Israel.

    • Maya Norton says:

      Dear Scott,

      Glad to see you here- and sorry for the late reply: I’m just seeing your comment now.

      How come you’re specifically interested in Jewish programming? How old is your son, what kind of activities are you interested in? There are probably lots of other great activities that would suit him just as well.

      ~ Maya

      Visit The New Jew: Microblog on Facebook at

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