For many years, Israel has been recognized the world over as the “Start-Up Nation,” with more hi-tech companies per capita than anywhere else in the world. While economically and commercially Israel has grown thanks to the high-tech boom—largely concentrated in the country’s center—physically, it remains relatively small, offering significantly lower wages for residents living in Israel’s north. However, a 21st century start-up revolution is quickly taking root, promising to transform one of the most essential and basic industries on the planet: food.
Agricultural and food technology challenges the way we grow, cultivate, cook, and consume our food, helping alleviate health issues such as diabetes, food allergies, obesity, and even hunger. Nearly 40% of food-tech start-ups around the world are located in Israel, and are an integral part of a massive socioeconomic change in Israel’s Upper Galilee region.
As part of the change in this picturesque but remote region, Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) has partnered with ii2020, an Israeli NGO, to focus on bringing food technology and innovation, business accelerators and incubators, and a world-class culinary institute to the Upper Eastern Galilee.
Construction has already begun with the building of Beit Asher, a food innovation and technology center, and the future JNF-USA Galilee Culinary Institute, which will be directed by famed Chef Lior Lev Sercarz. With this roll out, Jewish National Fund is playing a direct role in changing the narrative and landscape for the region by creating employment, bringing new residents, and changing the look, feel, and spirit of the area.
The Beit Asher Food Innovation Center will be home to researchers developing food security, Agri-Tech, and new healthier products to help feed the world. Utilizing the strategic partnering of Tel Hai College and the Regional Research Centers for Agriculture and Water in the Upper Eastern Galilee, ii2020 and Jewish National Fund-USA’s collaboration is poised to make the Upper Eastern Galilee a major world food capital.
Speaking to more than 60 high ranking members of the food industry, 17 ambassadors, and over 30 public sector and government employees, Jewish National Fund CEO Russell F. Robinson presented his vision for the future of the region.
“We are behind this initiative, as part of a vision to add 50,000 people to this region alone in the years ahead,” Robinson proudly stated. “Our work continues on with opening the Jewish National Fund-USA Galilee Culinary Institute. This state-of-the-art-facility will train new chefs and utilize Tel Hai College for business acumen, food security, and technology. Farm-to-table—there is no greater place to explore the tastes and the ingredients than the Upper Galilee.”
Food technology is revolutionizing the way we eat and live, focusing on healthier, cheaper, more environmentally friendly ways to innovate the food industry. JNF-USA’s investment in these ventures will serve as a platform for local entrepreneurs with early stage start-ups, supporting various aspects of their growth. This will include business development, legal frameworks, marketing, human resources management, fundraising, and facility maintenance.
The development of a new industrial center, not just for the country, but for the world, will motivate venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to further invest in accelerators and incubators for new products and create new employment opportunities. While Tel Aviv may boast a wide, eclectic array of boutique restaurants, it is in Kiryat Shmona where the real magic is taking place, branding itself as Israel’s emerging culinary capital on a global scale.
“An entrepreneur from the Galilee no longer needs to move to Tel Aviv,” explained Erel Margalit, the founder of ii2020. “The accelerator we are opening with Jewish National Fund will be an ideal platform for the start-ups in the region. Along with the international network and the connection to investors, we are creating an ecosystem just like in Tel Aviv.”
For Jewish National Fund, this is just the beginning of a massive renaissance for Northern Israel. Mirroring in-depth societal development, the scope of JNF’s work is building and strengthening communities. Along with the Food and Agri-Tech industries, JNF-USA also plans to construct a large modern regional medical center, and will continue to nurture existing partnerships with youth organizations, such as Green Horizons and community development initiatives such as MAKOM, a Jewish National Fund partner that strengthens Israeli communities across the country with human capital.
Collectively, all will add to the expected growth that Jewish National Fund-USA has promoted in its Go North initiative, which aims to bring 300,000 new people to the Galilee, promote the region’s economy and infrastructure, and provide housing and employment. With the know-how and experience, JNF-USA will continue to realize dreams for future generations of Israelis and to create a brighter future for the land and people of Israel.
To learn more about Jewish National Fund’s vision, join the organization September 13-15 in Washington, D.C. for its National Conference. Next year’s conference will be held in Israel, October 25-29, 2020. Visit jnf.org/nc2020 for information. To get involved and stay up to date on what’s happening with Jewish National Fund in Orange County, including the upcoming Women for Israel, Lawyers for Israel, and Doctors for Israel speaker series, contact Lisa Grier at firstname.lastname@example.org and 949.260.0400 x986.