Noah Initiative - יוזמת נח

A New Hope for the Generation of the Future

By Natalie Lee

A new organization, the ‘Noah Initiative’, claims to have found the solution to Israel’s economic and housing problems by building a new city benefiting young professionals in the south of the country.

The initiative was founded by a group of students as an answer to 2011’s social protests that swept the country. Their notion is based on building a new metropolitan to rival Tel-Aviv in order to battle the rising housing prices and the difficult economic situation young professionals find themselves in due to the high living costs and low salaries. They will offer special benefits to young professionals who will fit a certain standard criteria. “We are young people, trying to bring a solution to the young people in the country,” says the group’s founder and President, Ben Topor, “we are not waiting for someone else to lead the way”.

In order to bring the project to life, the initiative has teamed up with Professor Daniel Gat, a specialist in real estate and urban economics from the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. Gat has a government-approved plan to build a city on the outskirts of Ofakim - 15 kilometres from the largest city in the Negev, Be’er Sheva. By 2015, Israel’s southern desert is planned to have a new train route that will directly connect it to the country’s prospering centre and begin operations in the biggest army base in the country – Ir haBadim. “We want to take advantage of the state’s future plans to develop the Negev” says Topor, also a student of economics and Far Eastern studies at Tel Aviv University.

Israel’s housing prices have soared by 52.7% within the past five years and the younger generation’s frustration over the difficulty to buy property was brought to the streets in summer 2011 when Israel’s largest social protests took place nationwide. The ‘Noah Initiative’ plans to break a deal with the government in order to receive the land at no cost in return for the benefits a new city could bring. “The government has an interest to develop these lands by Jewish hands,” says Topor, “the concept of receiving lands for free from the government for this kind of purpose is done throughout the world”. This will allow for a 30%-40% decrease in the cost of buying an apartment in the new city, which is one of the strategies the initiative has to lure people in to the project.

The initiative began its operation last summer and is currently in talks with academic specialists in the fields of urban planning and economics as well as the municipalities surrounding the designated area for the city in order to maximise the cooperation for the project. The initiative wants the city to be known as a cultural and technological hub as well as for is its high quality schools, “We will have the best schools in the country, and young couples will want to settle there for the benefit of their next generation”.

Although the initiative is still taking its first steps, Topor says the response has been overwhelming. “Every day we meet new people that are interested in our cause and social network sites have been very efficient in spreading our word”.

The name of the initiative reflects what its founders and activists are hoping to eventually build. Topor explained that Noah, in Hebrew, means ‘comfortable’ “We all want to live respectably and comfortably, it is what we all aspire for. But the name also symbolizes the biblical story of Noah and the flood – we are hoping to ‘save’ our generation and the next to come from the ‘flood of high living costs’ that we all suffer from”.

to Noah Initiative Facebook page