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January 05, 1990 - Image 50

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-01-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

DIANE WOLKOW

Special to The Jewish. News

T

he first noticeable
thing upon approach-
ing Yavne from the
junction with the port city of
Ashdod is that this is a city
with an oasis look about it.
Blocks of gleaming white
villas and modern, American-
style apartment buildings
rise amid lush greenery only
yards away from scrub and
desert sand. The downtown
commercial area, a few blocks
from Detroit's Project
Renewal neighborhood of
Neot Shazar, is clean and
bustling.
Once a typical Israeli
development town without a
future, Yavne now is booming.
In the span of only 15 years,
this city has metamorphozed
into a thriving industrial
center and a residential
paradise for top Israel
professionals.
The modern city of Yavne
likes to boast of its proud
heritage as a famous city. An-
cient Yavne can trace its
history to at least the Middle
Bronze Age. Following the
destruction of the Second
Temple by the Romans in 70
B.C.E., it attracted leading
biblical scholars and became
a major academic and
religious center. A tradition
was established in Yavne:
Torah study combined with
crafts and agriculture.
But many of Yavne's
citizens and illustrious rab-
bis left after the Bar Kochba
revolt in 132 B.C.E., leaving
the city in the hands of con-
querers and rulers.
The 1948 War of In-
dependence freed Yavne of
Arab rule. The following year
it became a development
town, providing a haven of
sorts for Jewish immigrants
from Asian and African coun-
tries. These immigrants lived
first in tents, then in
tenements which deterio-
rated quickly into slums.

50

FRIDAY, JANUARY 5, 1990

Building Yavne

Detroit's Project Renewal
neighborhood has become a
bustling industrial center for top
Israeli professionals.

Education was scandalously
poor, unemployment ram-
pant. Yavne no longer could
lay claim to its former glory.
Mayor Yehuda Berros, who
settled in Yavne in 1973
following his army service,
recalls that at the time of his
arrival, more than 50 percent
of Yavne's families were being
maintained by welfare
services.
"I saw very quickly that
this town had no chance for a
future," he says. "As a
bachelor, it was no problem
for me. But for most of my
friends, when they had
children who had to go to
school, it was a breaking
point where they had to leave
Yavne."
Berros joined forces his first
year with others who say that
the only key to the city's
future was improving its
educational base. They cam-
paigned successfully for a
change in municipal leader-
ship to a council that would
be better able to meet the
total community's needs and
solve its social problems. The
new leadership's first major
step was a huge investment
in education, which made
Yavne more attractive to
young couples.
The unique approach for its
time — emphasizing educa-
tion in order to cure social ills
— changed Yavne's image.

The town's ideal location —
approximately 15 miles from
Tel Aviv and 4 1/2 miles from
the Weizmann Institute in
Rehovot, 9 miles from the ma-
jor port at Ashdod and half an
hour from Ben Gurion Inter-
national Airport — coupled
with its status as a develop-
ing area with government in-
centives, drew the eye of
potential investors.
The town's first major in-
dustry, Ormat, had already
been founded in 1965. Yehuda
Bronicki started his fledgling
plant with a technology he
had developed: a special tur-
bo generator designed to
generate electrical power
from low-grade heat sources
such as solar energy, geother-
mal sources and hot water,
waste heat and waste
combustion.
The 1960s were an era of
cheap petroleum, and
worldwide interest in alter-
native energy sources was
weak. But Israel, which has
no energy resources, had been
interested in solar energy and
other alternative energies
since the 1950s, making the
domestic market lucrative for
Ormat.
Ormat project manager
Michael Gill notes that when
Ormat started operation, its
objective was to manufacture
its products as an industry.
But besides the problems of

education and housing, Yavne
of the 1960s lacked local
employment and had a shor-
tage of skilled workers.
Shortly after its founding,
Ormat established a
vocational-educational school
to teach specialized
mechanical and electrical
skills at the high school level.
The school is now run jointly
by Ormat, ORT and the
Ministry of Labor. Gill proud-
ly points out that many of Or-
mat's 400 employees are
graduates of the ORt-Ormat

school. About half the com-
pany's work force is from
Yavne, with the remainder
from the surrounding area.
Growing interest in energy
conservation and non-
polluting energy sources over
the past decade or so has
spurred interest in Ormat's
products. More than 3,000 Or-
mat generator systems are
operating arund the world;
the company has established
American headquarters in
Sparks, Nev. Last year, Ormat
registered about $40 million
in sales, mostly for export.
The Ormat connection has
boosted Yavne's employment
base in other areas. In 1982,
Bronicki and a group of in-
vestors founded Orgenics to
produce sophisticated testing
systems for human and
veterinary medicine and tox-
ocology in such areas as
AIDS, viruses in poultry and
eggs and other potentially
dangerous substances.

,

Another Ormat affiliate
company, Orbot, was founded
with a group of young scien-
tists from the Weizmann In-
stitute and Michigan In-
stitute of Technology to per-

Detroit philanthropist Max Fisher (center) visits with children at an
elementary school during a recent visit to Yavne.

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