An initiative by a resident of the south of the country could put Mitzpe Ramon on the world tourism map - with a branch of New York's famed Guggenheim Museum for Modern Art in the Negev town.
Residents of Mitzpe Ramon hope to persuade the government to take up the initiative and to officially contact the Guggenheim Fund, asking for help to set up the branch.
About a year and a half ago, art curator Katy Bar, who came up with the idea, broached the subject with the head of the tourism department in the Mitzpe Ramon municipality, Yaacov Shmul. He and other municipal officials were enthusiastic about the idea and are examining how it can be put into practice.
The Guggenheim Museum already has branches in several countries, notably in the Basque town of Bilboa. It permits the setting up of branches in one of several ways. One is the establishment of a branch by the Guggenheim Fund itself in a place which it designates as an important cultural center. Another is a branch funded by commercial bodies, such as the Berlin branch, which was set up in conjunction with Deutsche Bank. Yet another possibility is a request from a government to set up a branch that will be a joint venture of that government and the fund. This last is the model that the Mitzpe Ramon officials are trying to encourage.
Bar and Shmul yesterday met with a representative of Vice Premier Shimon Peres' office for the development of the Negev and Galilee, as well as with a group of public figures who are trying to promote development of the Negev, to get the idea off the ground.
"Mitzpe Ramon is in the right strategic spot, located between the Dead Sea, the Red Sea and the Gaza Strip," Shmul says. "During an era of peace, this could become a focal point to which people would come from all over the area."