Written by Naama Zigdon

This story is about the first time I fell in love. I knew from a very young age that this love would be one I want to spend my life developing.

I grew up in the center of the country, in a small Yishuv right between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Even though I loved growing up there and only visited the South occasionally on school trips or family vacations, I had this image in my mind of the South as a place with warm, friendly people. I used to love the long drives we had every year when we went on family vacations to Eilat, and between fighting with the brother to my right and nagging the brother to my left (I have six siblings Bli Ayin HaRah), I loved looking outside of the window and staring at the desert.

When I was in 12th grade, I came to Be’er Sheva for a couple of days to check out options for Sherut Leumi without knowing much about the city. On the second morning of my visit, I went down the elevator with a bowl of cereal in my hands, but with no milk. The elevator stopped, and an older lady got on. She looked at me and smiled. After a few seconds, just as the elevator stopped again and I was about to get off, the lady looked at me once more and said, “Do you want to come to my home and I will give you some milk for your cereal?” That question put a big smile on my face, and I knew in that moment that the image I had in my mind about Southern Israel was right. I already loved the South.

I have been living in the South for 10 years now, studying in a fun and inspiring environment, working in something I am passionate about, and making it my home. Over the years, my love for the local people and the unique landscape only grew stronger. To me, this is what the Negev is all about – warm people, beautiful desert, and ample opportunities for self-growth and development. True, there are challenges one faces when living in the Negev. Even though the region gets steadily increasing attention and resources from the Israeli government, it is a fertile ground for further development and change. Being here to see the amazing changes and growth that are happening daily is very exciting.

My love for the area I call home has only grown as I have continued to make choices, invest, and grow in this beautiful part of the country.