Text size

Despite the financial crisis the country is facing, two real estate developers opened a huge 5,500-square meter shopping center yesterday in the southern town of Netivot. Called the Globes Center, it was developed by Gabi Tarbelsi and Nissim Malka, who themselves live in the south of the country. So far, 30 chain stores have signed on to the project.

In cooperation with the Denisra development and construction company, tens of millions of shekels have been invested in bringing the project to fruition.

At a time when many towns out of the main population centers are dependent on one major business as a source of employment, in Netivot the situation is a little different. Instead of one business with thousands of employees, Netivot has thousands of small businesses, most of which are managing to turn a profit despite the recession.

At the relatively young age of 28, Tarbelsi already has many real estate deals under his belt. In addition to his business interest in the shopping center, Tarbelsi sees the project as a vote of confidence in Netivot, where he was born and still makes his home.

"I very much believe in Netivot," he said. "People here know how to treat one another, and are looking forward to the opening of a center which will bring them the brands that can be found in Israel's big cities."

He noted that although there is some concern in Netivot about the economic situation, the crisis has largely bypassed the town, and added that he has had to turn potential merchants away because the new shopping center is fully leased.

Malka is a former resident of the Morag settlement in the Gaza Strip. After Israel's withdrawal from the Strip in 2005, he began looking for a real estate investment and teamed up with Tarbelsi. Malka said that he conferred with Rabbi Yoram Abergil of Netivot before committing funds to the town, and the rabbi was very enthusiastic about the town's future.

The developers noted that Netivot, located between Be'er Sheva and Gaza, is a regional center that draws business from around the area. They said their research revealed that the purchasing power in the area was the equivalent of that in a large city, but the town lacked the major chain stores of large cities. They are reportedly offering merchants rental rates at half of what would be paid in a major city.

In the coming months, the new shopping center in Netivot will be joined by two other retail centers. The town's mayor, Yehiel Zohar, said that "the center which opened yesterday as well as the two additional projects were planned well before the financial crisis. It is Netivot's good fortune that the town has been comprised for many years of small family businesses, so factory closings such as we are seeing in other places in Israel are not affecting Netivot, which is more resilient economically."