Government approves framework for NIS 19 billion plan to rehabilitate area near Gaza

5-year roadmap, which aims to upgrade and restore area affected by Oct. 7 onslaught, is ‘a historic’ move toward prosperity, says project head

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

A demolished home in Kibbutz Kfar Aza. (Home Front Command)
A demolished home in Kibbutz Kfar Aza. (Home Front Command)

The government has approved the framework of a five-year plan to rehabilitate the Tekuma region near the border with Gaza following Hamas’s October 7 onslaught.

The plan approved Wednesday by the cabinet has a total budget of NIS 19 billion ($5 billion), a quarter of which is earmarked for developing the region and the remaining funds for restoring the damages sustained in the onslaught, the Tekuma Authority, the government arm responsible for the rehabilitation efforts, said in a statement.

The exact details of the plan are not yet determined as the government is set to decide on them later this year, a rehabilitation official told The Times of Israel.

“Today is a historic date in which we embark on a strategic five-year plan that will heal and rehabilitate the region and its residents, bringing them growth, prosperity and hope,” read a statement Wednesday by Tekuma Authority Head Moshe Ederi, a retired IDF brigadier general and former head of the Israel Atomic Energy Agency.

An amphitheater, a new beach strip, a research and development center and two medical facilities were some of the amenities listed in a draft of the plan published last month.

The draft shows that much of the budget is earmarked toward residential needs, which include renovating or rebuilding damaged homes (NIS 1.35 billion or $370 million) and a similar expenditure on temporary accommodations, typically in hotels, for evacuees.

Illustrative: Destruction caused by Hamas terrorists on October 7 in Kibbutz Be’eri, near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, seen on October 19, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

Most of the 57,000 evacuees from the Tekuma region are back home, but the 12 towns that were most severely hit in Hamas’s October 7 attack will take until 2025 at least to rehabilitate and repopulate, according to the Tekuma Authority.

About 30% of the money spent on construction and renovation is reserved for public facilities, according to the draft.

Zikim Beach — Israel’s southernmost regulated beach on the Mediterranean, where Hamas terrorists murdered 19 people on October 7 and damaged facilities — is to be renovated and upgraded.

On October 7, some 3,000 terrorists who poured in from Gaza murdered close to 1,200 people across a wide swath of the south and kidnapped 253.

In the draft of the plan, agriculture and industry were to see about NIS 512 million ($140 million) of the budget. Post-harvest automation processes were to receive NIS 100 million ($27 million) in a bid to relieve the dependency of farmers on foreign workers.

Kwabena Frimpong, a Ghanaian intern bottle-feeding a calf in the Kibbutz Zikim dairy farm, December 2023. (Bernard Dichek)

Of the funds earmarked for agriculture in the draft, nearly half were to go toward establishing an agro-tech research center. Education was to receive NIS 2 billion ($550 million) of the budget, translating into an investment of about NIS 10,000 ($2,700) per student.

The Netanya-based Wingate Institute, which is one of Israel’s leading sports academies, plans to open a Sderot branch as part of the new rehabilitation plan with an NIS 400 million ($110 million) investment that’s part of the education package.

Also included in the package is NIS 307 million ($81.3 million) to rehabilitate the environment of the area near Gaza by 2028, including projects such as waste removal and new waste facilities, creating nature sites for Gaza border residents, and lining streets with trees for shade.

The earmark omits the NIS 72 million ($19 million) that the Environmental Protection Ministry estimates is needed to return some 7,000 dunams (1,730 acres) of open space back to health after they were damaged by military vehicles in connection with the war against Hamas in Gaza.

An aerial view of Sderot. (Golan Sabag/Sderot municipality)

About NIS 600 million ($165 million) were earmarked for health under the draft, including renovating clinics and expanding resilience centers, which are mental health clinics helping residents, and especially children, deal with anxieties related to Hamas hostilities. Two new medical centers, one in Sderot and another one outside that city, are to account for NIS 70 million ($19 million) of the health budget, according to the draft.

Expenditure on security in various Tekuma region communities will cost about NIS 720 million (roughly $200 million) according to the draft of the plan.

Sue Surkes contributed to this report.

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