LACHISH REGION , development region in southern Israel, comprising an area of approximately 275 sq. mi. (750 sq. km.). Stretching from the Mediterranean Coast between Niẓẓanim and the Gaza Strip eastward to the pre-1967 armistice line, the region includes three different geographical and farming areas: the western part, belonging to the Coastal Plain, with mostly light soils and well suited for citrus cultivation; the central part, also the Coastal Plain, with heavier soils where intensive field crops are preponderant; and the eastern part, belonging to the foothills (Shephelah) and reaching at its northeastern extremity into the Hebron Hills, characterized by fruit orchards, tobacco, and sheep pasture along with field crops. In the western part outpost settlements were established in the 1939–47 period (including Negbah and Gevaram) and after 1948 a network of 31 moshavim and kibbutzim came into being there. Development in the central and eastern parts, however, was held up by lack of water. With the construction of the Yarkon-Negev conduit in 1954, the Lachish Development Project came into being and became the prototype of regional planning for Israel and also for other developing countries. The scheme aimed at combining optimal exploitation of local natural features with the speedy absorption of a maximum number of immigrant settlers in productive employment, complying
with defense requirements at the same time. It provided for the establishment of clusters of four or five farming villages, each having from 40 to 100 settler families and grouped around "rural centers." Most of the 23 villages erected in the Lachish region since 1954 were moshavim, but there were also a few kibbutzim and administered farms. The three rural centers were *Nehorah, Even Shemu'el, and Vardon (Menuḥah); for the older village clusters, no such centers were set up, and they were directly dependent on the next regional town (see below). Whereas the villages proper had local services (e.g., kindergarten and, sometimes, the lower elementary school classes, grocery, and a synagogue), the rural center offered most services, e.g., a school, a clinic, a tractor and machine shop, a dairy plant, packing and sorting sheds, storehouses, a central grocery, and cultural institutions. While in the individual villages settlers having a similar background were concentrated, the rural center served as a meeting ground for immigrants from different countries and continents, thereby furthering their mutual integration and distributing service costs over several hundred families. The rural centers and their dependent villages were in turn connected with the regional town which provided economic, social, and cultural services of a higher order (e.g., factories based on agricultural raw materials, banks, regional administration, and secondary schools). *Kiryat Gat functioned as the Lachish region's urban center, but a number of villages in the western part were more closely linked to *Ashkelon and *Kiryat Malakhi which are within easier reach. The road network linked villages to their rural centers, and these to the regional town. In 1970 the Lachish region's rural population numbered 17,500 persons, as the *Adullam region in the northeast had meanwhile become a separate development area. In the 1990s and the 2000s farming declined, leading many settlers to find their source of livelihood outside their settlements. However, the region is still known for its extensive vineyards and a number of other farming branches are still active. At the end of 2003 the Lachish region numbered 6,300 inhabitants.
H. Halperin, Agrindus, Integration of Agriculture and Industries (1963); R. Weitz, in: Journal of Farm Economics (Aug. 1965), 634–51; R. Weitz and A. Rokach, Agricultural Development: Planning and Implementation (1968); A. Rokach, Regional Rural Development (1964); idem, in: People in the Countryside. Studies in Rural Social Development (1966), 146–59; E. Orni, Forms of Settlement (1963), 178ff.
[Avshalom Rokach and
Elisha Efrat /
Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]