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Wasteland No More: Women Transform Israel’s Negev


NEGEV DESERT, Israel -- Israel's founder, David Ben Gurion, hoped one day the Negev Desert would be a vibrant part of the Jewish state. With help from an American friend, many women are taking part in this vision.

From pottery to bicycles to a bed and breakfast, businesswomen of the Israeli Negev are starting to make a difference.

The Negev Desert makes up more than half the land mass of Israel. Some people call it a wasteland, but others see it as a land of opportunity.

Ben Gurion, for example, saw the Negev as a place where Israelis would be tested to populate the wilderness and make it flourish.

"The possibilities are endless in the Negev," American Christian Beth Isern told CBN News.

Isern exudes optimism about the women and the region. The Colorado businesswoman heard about the need there and answered the call.

"I think that the State of Israel needs to really get it -- that there are some many Americans, true Americans that are Christians, that would give up almost anything to help them, that they're on their side, that they're not alone," Isern said.

Einat Doron has lobbied on behalf of women entrepreneurs for years and found an ally in Isern.

"I was alone in this thing. Everything was on my back, and I feel that with her I can share ideas and stuff," Doron told CBN News. "And I think she brings us things from abroad."

"They asked me, 'Would you please come and talk to the women of this -- of the Negev region -- and help them, you know, find their niche?'" Isern explained.

Isern now works with many of the businesswomen there. Shmuel Rifman, mayor of the Ramat HaNegev Regional Council, one of the Negev's areas, appreciates her investment.

"Time is something taken for granted," Rifman told CBN News. "Money comes and goes, but the way Beth Isern is investing her time and the efforts that she's putting in is hard to believe."

Many of the women say Isern is making a difference. One way is promoting their products on the Internet.

"She's actually connecting us. She's actually helping us support this forum of women and connecting us out to overseas," one woman told CBN News. "As we know, Israel is small. The Negev is a small part of Israel so she's sort of connecting us more to the outside world, and I think this is very important for us as we all have very small companies."

For Shahar and Ruthy, both potters, it meant a boost in confidence.

"It meant a lot to me, I think. It gives you, gives you, like, you feel like there's somebody that is there for you, you know," Shahar said.

"She gave me courage," Ruthy added. "She gave us inspiration."

The Negev is rich in biblical history. It's where men such as Abraham once walked.

Isern sees a bright future for this land, and for this businesswoman, the bottom line is love.

"For my ultimate goal, I think, is to show the Jewish community down there that the Christian side is very much on their side and we love them very much," she said.

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