Keren Shemesh – the Beit Shemesh Development Fund.
Making a difference in the lives of children in Bet Shemesh
Keren Shemesh – the Beit Shemesh Development Fund, was founded in July 2005 and is the leading non-profit organization in the city. The main goal of the Fund is to improve the lives of the residents of Beit Shemesh, to invest in education and improve cultural activity in the city. Our Board of Directors is composed of local residents, some immigrants to Israel from the west and some native born Israelis. The members of our board have a strong sense of volunteerism and are actively involved in and contribute to all aspects of life in the city. The Fund has tax deductible status from the Ministry of Finance of Israel and is recognized to receive donations by the PEF Endowment Fund in the United States. Our Fund has a General Director, Chairman of the board and a Board of Directors.
Beit Shemesh – past and present
The City of Beit Shemesh is located in the center of Israel, about half way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Modern Beit Shemesh was founded in 1951 as a transit camp for new immigrants from Rumania, Poland, Iran, Iraq, Morocco and Afghanistan. In 1991 Beit Shemesh had a population of 20,000 residents, but over the past several years the city has grown drastically and we now have a population of almost 100,000 residents, 50% of the population is under the age of 18. Beit Shemesh continues to absorb new immigrants from all over the world.
The city is located in the “heartland of the Bible”, all around the area many of the most famous Biblical events took place – the battle of David and Goliath, Judah met Tamar and Samson married Delilah. Tradition also recounts that Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian Church, was buried in our area and that Gamliel, one of the teachers of Paul, lived nearby. Beit Shemesh is surrounded by parks, nature reserves and archaeological sites, the area attracts nature lovers of all kinds, along with Israelis seeking clean air, little traffic and a higher quality of life. Our community has become a magnet for Israelis from all over the country. Beit Shemesh attracts both religious and secular, new immigrant and native born populations alike.
The city has a significant minority population who come from disadvantaged and low literacy backgrounds, while at the same time we have a population of highly educated professionals who demand improved municipal services. In Beit Shemesh today, scientists researching cutting edge solar energy technologies and advanced software applications live side by side with new arrivals who have just been introduced to the modern world.
Over the past 15 years Bet Shemesh has seen a huge influx of Ultra Orthodox residents. Whereas, they used to be a small percentage of the city, today they comprise over fifty percent of the residential population, with entire neighborhoods dedicated primarily to them. With the cost of housing in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak so high, Bet Shemesh became an affordable alternative, with attractive prices and a desirable standard of living. Along with the change in population, there has been a change in the municipal representation, today the mayor and the majority of the municipality are Ultra Orthodox, ensuring a large percentage of the municipal funds. Bet Shemesh today is truly a melting pot of all sections of Israeli society.
Our city is a true microcosm of Israeli society with all the challenges and blessings that it implies.