Amid talks, Golan gets first mall, and development booms
The two-story shopping center, called Nof Golan, will cover an area of 3,000 square meters.
As Turkish envoys were mediating Israeli-Syrian talks in Istanbul, construction workers in Moshav Bnei Yehuda were putting the finishing touches on the first mall in the southern Golan Heights, which will open next month.
According to the mall's owner, Terrace Investments, it is meant to serve the needs of the "large population of tourists who visit the area," as well as local residents. The two-story shopping center, called Nof Golan, will cover an area of 3,000 square meters.
Ofer Zilberberg, of neighboring Kibbutz Gashur, said the mall is just one example of the Golan's rapid development in recent years.
"There is great vigor here: expanding communities, investment in agriculture and a great deal of entrepreneurship, the establishment of small businesses," he said. "Today, almost everyone who comes to the Golan is a budding entrepreneur ... In addition, we've succeeded in branding ourselves as a region of superb wines, high-quality water, high-quality olive oil, homemade cheeses and excellent meat."
Terrace CEO Assaf Schuster echoed Zilberberg's optimistic assessment of the Golan's economic future: Local communities are planning to bring in hundreds of new families, unique archaeological sites are being developed, and there are even plans to build a small airport, he noted.
Before deciding to build the mall, Schuster added, Terrace did a study of traffic on the road it adjoins and expansion plans in nearby communities. "Since that study, the potential has only grown," he said.
Local businessmen evidently share this optimism as well: Terrace said that most of the mall's stores have already been rented.
"The company sees the Golan as one of the most beautiful and popular tourist areas in Israel, and therefore, the mixture of services and businesses that the mall will offer was specially adapted to the community of tourists who visit the area," Terrace said in a statement.
Among other things, the mall will include a tourist information center, a garage specializing in all-terrain vehicles and a gift shop specializing in local products, from foodstuffs to crafts, as well as standard mall denizens such as drugstores and cafes.
And what about the prospect of Israel returning the Golan to Syria following the talks now occurring in Turkey? "I'm not pressured, because I don't believe it will happen in the next 20 years," said Schuster.