Miami Yerucham Partnership

A Curricular and Educational Resource Guide

“The future of Israel lies in the Negev.” David Ben Gurion

In June 2006, a long-term partnership was established between the Miami Jewish community and the city of Yerucham, Israel. Located in the Negev Desert, and boasting the second largest lake in Israel, Yerucham is a 13-square-mile city founded in 1951 as a transit camp for new immigrants. Today, it is home to a diverse population of approximately 9,400 residents representing a microcosm of Israel’s many cultural and ethnic communities.

The purpose of the Miami-Yerucham Partnership is to build meaningful relationships in order to strengthen both communities, and to foster and develop a love of Judaism, Israel and the Jewish people. The Partnership encourages people-to-people relationships between residents of Miami and Yerucham. It also promotes mutually supportive initiatives, connecting resources and expertise to achieve sustained spiritual, social, cultural and economic growth for both communities.

Introduction and Partnership Information

Yerucham Facts
Ideas for Use Across Curriculum


The Goals for this Guide are as follows:

  1. To assist students in fully understanding and appreciating the nature and scope of our Partnership with Yerucham and to motivate schools to cultivate this relationship.
  2. To educate teachers who will teach students more effectively about the Partnership and begin to experiment with a wide variety of educational programs and projects.
  3. To be adaptable to day schools & congregational schools while accessible to ALL teachers.
  4. To be useful to early childhood teachers in providing background and foundational ideas.
  5. To be used as a resource by Families, Synagogues, Donors, College & Youth Programs and in Camp settings, Bar/Bat Mitzvah trips and any other Group trips to Israel.

Teachers and Students Should:


That Yerucham exists

Partnership and people-to-people connection

Shift perception of Yerucham

The relevance to/with our community

Connected to Yerucham specifically, people and culture

Develop and maintain a relationship with a relevant group in Yerucham

Where Yerucham fits into Negev and the importance of the Negev

Part of history/change

Articulate to family & friends something having to do with Yerucham

America/Israel & city/town

Personal connection to Israel

Develop a presence in Yerucham through projects and/or activities

Where Yerucham is on map and that the 2nd largest lake in Israel is located in Yerucahm

Excited to visit Yerucham

Integrate Yerucham effortlessly into curriculum

Future/visionary connection to the Negev is happening now!

Inspired to be a part of the transformation that is taking place

Partner with the Chalutzim of the 21st century who are transforming the Negev

Miami –Yerucham Partnership
For a great introduction to Yerucham, check out this exciting video “Yeruham 2007: Come, Discover, Fall I Love”  from the New Yerucham Fund!

Or this well-crafted video “Yerucham” that goes into further detail about the demographics and geographical location.

Located on the edge of the Machtesh HaGadol, the giant crater, Yerucham was established by the Jewish Agency in 1951 as little more than a transition camp for new immigrants. It was officially recognized by the Israeli government in 1953 and became a municipality in 1959. Yerucham will be celebrating its 60th anniversary on Tu b’Shvat, (January) 2011. When immigrants from Morocco and India and refugees from the DP camps first arrived on Israeli shores in the early 1950s and requested to be taken to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, many were brought instead to the isolated village of Yerucham. Many decided to stay.

- Map of Negev Region

- Map closer in to location of Yerucham

Yerucham is the physical manifestation of the expression “ingathering of the exiles.” Its population comes from all corners of the Jewish world, including Morocco, Russia, India, and even the United States. The town has endured for nearly 60 years, despite an abundance of social, political and economic struggles since its founding.

- Check out this cool video, a perspective from two Miami Otzma volunteers who spent some time in Yerucham in 2008.

Yerucham is an oasis in the heart of the Negev Desert and is central to Israel’s national plan to develop the Negev Region.

- Check out this article “Yeruham, the boomtown of the South”  in Ha’aretz, which illustrates the attractiveness of Yerucham to many people looking to live in the Negev.

- Check out this article “Daytrips”, from the Keren Kayemet Yisrael (JNF) website that describes Yerucham.

- Check out this video “Young Communities in Israel” about young people - social pioneers - making a difference in Israel and settling in Young Communities, including Yerucham.

- And this video “Yerucham 2008”


Size and Location: 13-square-mile community in Israel’s Ramat HaNegev region, approximately 20 miles southeast of Beer Sheva.

Origins: Founded in 1951 as a transit camp for new immigrants from Eastern Europe, and later from Morocco. In the 1990’s, Yerucham absorbed hundreds of immigrants from the Former Soviet Union.

  • Approximately 9,400 people
  • 40 percent of residents are age 19 and younger
  • Half of the residents come from North Africa
  • 24 percent originate from the former Soviet Union
  • 12 percent are from India

Mayor Amram Mitzna, a distinguished IDF general (retired), former Mayor of Haifa and former head of the Labor Party. In the three years since Mr. Mitzna was appointed Mayor, there has been a renewal in Yerucham and a focus toward improving the quality of life and laying the foundation for a solid future.

Many resources are invested in the development of formal education. The educational system includes dozens of preschools and day care centers, five elementary schools, and a high school affiliated with the ORT network. A Hesder yeshiva, a post-high school Jewish Studies program for men who are serving in the IDF, was founded over a decade ago and attracts students from all over the country and has a special leadership program for Ethiopian young men. A Kama high school for religious girls with emphasis in math and science is another example of meeting the needs of the community.

National Curriculum:

Click here for a summary of the laws relating to education.


  • Yerucham is blessed with wonderful sites to see
  • Yerucham Lake Park – almost 50 acres with a natural lake and an artificial lake More than 200 species of birds can be found around the lake
  • Large Crater – beautiful geological erosion landform east of Yerucham
  • Yerucham Fortress – ancient archeological site
  • Na’ama Farm offers visitors an opportunity to see herds of goats, a petting corner, a small winery and harvest olives. Telephone: 972-52-3668672
  • Cycling routes, including a 34km bicycle route around Yerucham and the lake.
  • According to Bedouin legend, it is also home to the “well of pity” where God showed pity on Hagar and her son Ishmael, as described in the book of Genesis. (“Yerucham” is rooted in the Hebrew word for pity.)


  • Some of the programs that the Miami Yerucham Partnership is involved with and some unique organizations in and around Yerucham include:
  • The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (AIES) is the premier environmental teaching and research program in the Middle East, preparing future Arab and Jewish leaders to cooperatively solve the region’s environmental challenges.
  • Atid Bamidbar  – is a unique community oriented study center where a diverse representation of the population of the Negev meet and study Jewish sources, from Bible to contemporary works, in an open, egalitarian, and pluralistic atmosphere, striving to apply these sources to the complex social realities of the 21st century.
  • Ayalim Student Village  – pre-army service year for students that volunteer in various areas including schools, childcare facilities, family centers and hold cultural activities.
  • Bnei Akiva, Tzofim (scouts), Noar Oved are three youth movements that instill a sense of pride, leadership, involvement in the community, as well as a stronger identity.
  • Culinary Queens of Yerucham empowers women from various ethnic groups who have low incomes – or none at all – by enabling them to host groups of visitors for meals at their homes, thereby preserving their ethnic traditions and providing enriching human Jewish experiences for the cooks and their guests alike. The cookbook includes great recipes in both Hebrew and English.
  • Desert Research Institute - The Institutes for Desert Research were established in Sde-Boker in 1974 and include activities covering basic research in: Environmental physics, with applications in desert meteorology and solar energy; Water sciences and technology, with applications in water resource management, wastewater treatment and bioremediation; Ecology, with applications in conservation biology and environmental protection; Plant and animal physiology, with applications in desert agriculture, livestock, and aquaculture; Cellular and molecular biology, with applications in desert biotechnologies and biodegradation of environmental pollutions; Social sciences and architecture, with applications in regional planning and human habitat design in drylands.
  • Golden Age Home – senior daycare center meeting the needs of the seniors including paramedical treatments, group activities, lectures, morning and midday meals.
  • Machsan 52 – teen programming taking place in a “hip,” renovated warehouse
  • where the youth of Yerucham can come and spend time creatively, receive enrichment programs, speak with experienced youth counselors and participate in special events.
  • Midreshet Beyahad is an outreach center staffed by National Service young women who provide services and organize events for underserved youth and adults, offers seminars and guided tours, as well as runs a youth hostel.
  • School twinning-pairs day schools in Miami and schools in Yerucham where the students correspond and work on joint projects.
  • Tzvi Group (Young People of Yerucham) supports and initiates cultural, community and social enterprises for those 20-35. The participants are involved in social and creative endeavors which challenge and attract students from all over to settle in Yerucham.
  • Warm Home for Girls and Warm Home for Boys both provide a warm meal, enrichment programs, assistance with homework for children at-risk.
  • Yaacov’s Light Foundation assists education programs in Yerucham in raising the levels of academic performance of the children of Yerucham and boosting the morale of its citizens.
  • Yeshivat Hesder emphasizes the importance of learning Talmud in depth, specifically through applying the Brisker Method. A typical day in Yeshiva will include two sessions of intensive Talmud study (iyun) and one of extensive study (bekiut).
  • Youth Futures is an innovative program dedicated to provide youth at risk, ages 8-18, with an equal opportunity to succeed in life and to realize their personal potential. Addressing the needs of nearly 180 children at risk in Miami’s partnership city of Yerucham, Youth Futures partners provide assistance, helping the children develop motivation, self-esteem and self-confidence.


Any study on ecology, water, climate, agriculture, etc. can be developed using information here:
Statistics, fractions, bar graphs, pie charts based on area population
Computations of area, miles, elevations related to the regional geography

Creative writing on the region, haikus, poetry, lyrics inspired by photos of the area

Flavors and Delights of Yerucham Cookbook provides an excellent classroom opportunity that brings together language study and kitchen science together by translating and preparing the recipes. Contact Dahlia Bendavid at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation 786.866.8445 or for a copy of the book.

Also, creative writing, poetry, piyutim etc. inspired by the region

Listen to songs from the region – write your own music, learn songs
  • Piyut Festival video from 2008 features Piyutim presented in contemporary performances and arrangements. Hundreds of piyutim and thousands of recordings from all the traditions, from East to West are available. Listen and Learn – music included, performances online in Hebrew and English. A piyut (plural piyutim) is a liturgical poem. The term is derived from the Greek word meaning poetry. The term refers to all sacred poetry written in Hebrew. Piyutim were first written in Israel from as early as the first century.
  • Kehilot Sharot song festival - Listen to music from the region created by the people of Yerucham – Ladino, etc. (lyrics included) [haklitot] in Hebrew and English.

Using the region as inspiration can serve a multitude of art projects, using sand and many other media
  • Anna Marcus reproduction of paintings that include views of Yerucham and the Negev. Download memorial booklet with texts and her life story (PDF) – Hebrew and English texts on her life and work
  • Desert landscape surrounding Ben Gurion University can be found by clicking on the Photo Gallery Link  at the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research home page
  • Stunning photography of the Negev including animals, plants, people, landscape, SNOW! and more can be found at The Negev Album

History/Social Studies
  • People: Who are the people that settled the area; Who lives there now; Where are they from; Immigration to Israel; Absorption
  • Culture/Diversity (Ashkenazic and Sephardic):
  • What people in Yerucham do for Work; Contemporary Israeli lifestyle; Entertainment
  • Developing a Town: How to build a city; Infrastructure; Buildings/architecture;
  • Businesses; Economics
  • Why choose the Negev (Ben Gurion’s idea): History; What was in B.G.’s mind? Importance; Immigration to Israel; Ashkenazic/Sephardic placement; Developing cities; Stigma – city. Why Stay? Why leave?
  • Schools, Social Services, Youth activities, Scouts
  • Negev Relationship, including the periphery and the center
  • Future Plans, involving History (Government ignored) and Future (Government centered)
  • Modern Day Zionism
  • Politics – how affected?
  • Personal Israel=Partnerships

  • Yerucham name – what does it mean?
  • Why was Torah given in Desert?
  • Explore the idea of the “well of pity” as described in (Gen. 21)
  • Yerucham - Biblical References tie-in
  • Why do we want this close connection to Israel? US/Israel.
  • Explore: Values; Solidarity; Responsibility to one another
  • Click here for the Midreshet site where teachers can create their own lesson plans and resources from articles in Hebrew. This interactive site lets you download study sheets on diverse topics or design them yourself.


Dahlia Bendavid, Director, Israel and Overseas Dept, GMJF
Bobbie Higer (Miami) and Jeff Goodman (Yerucham), Yerucham Steering Committee Co-Chairs
Morrie Siegel and Amy Chafetz, Co-Chairs Yerucham Committee
Debbie Golan

With many thanks to the Miami Jewish Educators who formed the Creative Team that helped gather resources for this Guide: Rabbi Levi Cash, Dror Gershoni, David Hazan, Yardena Kamelli and Patricia Zahl

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