Many Ayalim workers help with the construction of the houses in Ashalim (Negev)
Could Israel one day risk losing effective control of a vast tract of desert which its founding father said was key to its survival? The country's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, said that without the Negev, Israel would be hardly a state and hardly Jewish.
But 60 years on, new Zionist groups fear the wilderness which makes up more than half Israel's territory could eventually have an Arab majority population.
They are calling for huge state investment in the Negev to persuade more Jews to move there from the country's overcrowded central belt.
"If we don't work fast, we might find ourselves in a situation which is on the verge of catastrophe, with 80% of our land which is not disputed today," says Dany Gliksberg, a founder of Ayalim, an organisation which encourages students to live, and do voluntary social work, in the Negev, the south of Israel, and Galilee, its northern region.
"The Negev and the Galilee are one of the biggest missions we have today in Israel," Gliksberg says. "If we lose 80% of our land, both on the social and economic side, and of course eventually on the demographic and political side, then I think we lose our right to exist as a country for the Jewish people."
Ben Gurion's dream was of five million Jews living and working in the Negev. But today they are still only about half a million, and the relative lack of jobs and services makes it hard to persuade more to move to the barren region.
Ayalim, which means "Gazelles", is one of a number of movements formed in recent years which aim to recapture what they see as the ideals and pioneering spirit of early Zionism.
Read whole article: BBC (ps. we normaly don't like the bbc's biased reporting on Israel)