Near the Egyptian border is the educational “eco-village” of Nitzana. Founded in 1986 by the late Arie “Lova” Eliav—a longtime member of Israel’s Knesset and recipient of both the Israel Prize and the Ben-Gurion Prize—Nitzana is an extraordinary center for young people that is all about building environmental awareness, self-confidence, and tolerance for others.
The facility is administered by the Jewish Agency and the Ramat Negev Regional Council, and is largely run as a kind of “field school,” with outdoor classes. Among its programs is a service-learning course in leadership skills for recent high-school graduates before they enter their military service.
There is the Nitzana Solar Park, which features instructional installations about renewable energy and recycling; thousands of schoolchildren visit here each year. There are weeklong “Negev Seminars” for Israeli kids, and yearlong Hebrew-language classes for foreign students. There is also a boarding school (run in partnership with Israel’s Ministry of Education) for young refugees who have made their way from Eritrea and South Sudan, many of them having experienced horrific trauma—war, famine, torture—before arriving here. Orphans are taught English, math, computer skills: all they need to grow up prepared to take care of themselves in the world. And Nitzana’s Youth Empowerment Center helps young people who have suffered from illness or disease or trauma to cope with their problems so that they can get back to normal life.
Nitzana is located near the ruins of an ancient Nabataean site—a trading-post settlement on the old route between Eilat and Gaza. The school’s archaeological museum houses fascinating artifacts found in the area.
Nitzana is an extraordinary center for young people that is all about building environmental awareness, self-confidence, and tolerance for others.