Location: Be’er Sheva
Photographer: Rudi Weissenstein
In the 1950s many new immigrants settled in the western Negev. These were the first days of settlement in the Negev.
Yosef Weitz, director of the KKL-JNF's afforestation department, wanted to develop an agricultural sector for the new settlers.
Agave has green leaves and fleshy leaves, which in a fairly simple industrial process can be dried and produced into strong fibers, known as "sisal". The fibers are woven into ropes and produce jute fabrics, a very popular commodity in those days. Agave is a wild plant originating in the deserts of Mexico, which develops well in a dry climate such as the one of the Negev. This was known to KKL-JNF members, and in the new establishments of the Negev in 1943 - Gvulot, Beit Eshel and Revivim - they successfully raised Agave.
The Agave grew, and in 1957 the Gilat plant was established as an advanced fiber processing plant. The beginning seemed promising, but the success was short, since in the early 1960s, synthetic fibers, which were stronger and cheaper than the Sisal fibers, reached Israel. The factory suffered losses and in 1966 was forced to close its doors.
Text from the JNF website