In January, a complex for young adults and young communities will open in Arad, at the initiative of Nili Surkis, a graduate of the Arad Local Leadership Program of the Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev. The complex will provide conditions for the emergence of communities of young adults, offering them cultural and community solutions, and will give young adults in Arad the feeling of community affiliation and involvement.
The idea to establish the complex was born about five years ago, against the background of the processes that have taken place in Arad in recent years. On the one hand, there is out-migration by socioeconomically strong young adults and the presence of many recent immigrants who rely on the limited municipal infrastructure—processes that have eroded the city’s community spirit and the social capital needed for it to develop. On the other hand, Arad has immense potential. The relocation of IDF units to the area is bringing young career soldiers there. The city is also home to a large number of natives who are currently studying at college or university and to others who live there while pursuing their studies. In fact, in recent years there has been a shortage of rental apartments, which has driven up rental prices.
Thanks to a three-sector partnership between the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee, the Arad municipality, the Jewish Agency, JNF-Britain, Gazit-Globe, the Ness Fund, and Real Estate Participations, the compound will be developed in an abandoned absorption center in Arad. It will include 112 renovated studio apartments and will house the municipal center for young adults on its ground floor. The complex will focus on several main areas: housing—a range of residential solutions for young adults, at below-market prices; community—cultural and community programs that create a venue where young adults can meet and be active; commercial or social/commercial entrepreneurship—encouraging young adults to develop business projects to be run by and for them, and producing cultural events in the complex and allocating some of the profits to activities there or to community projects. There will also be an office on site to provide counseling and guidance in diverse areas: higher education, scholarships, employment, vocational training, social involvement, culture and recreation (workshops for recently discharged soldiers, establishment of an Open University learning center, a community cinema, and so on). The new complex will have a potential target audience of young communities, college and university students, young Arad natives, career soldiers, and other young people who live in the city for short periods (national service year, premilitary academies).
The originator of the idea for the complex, Nili Surkis, says that while setting up the center for young adults in Arad she was exposed to urban demographic issues, including the need to find housing solutions for young adults in the town. She notes the importance of what she learned in the local leadership program of the Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev, the opportunity to cooperate with outstanding people from Arad, and the advantages of joint thinking. Surkis, a resident of Arad, made aliya from Russia and spent her childhood in Ofakim. She moved to Arad with her parents when she was 14, finished high school there, and returned as an adult.