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NETIVOT (Heb. נְתִיבוֹת; "Roads," from Prov. 3:17), Israel development town in N.W. Negev, 9 mi. (15 km.) S.E. of Gaza. Netivot was founded in 1956 in the framework of Israel's regional settlement and population dispersion policy. It was initially named Azzatah ("Toward Gaza"). Although placed in the center of a quickly expanding agricultural region, Netivot's progress was handicapped by the proximity of two other development towns, *Sederot and *Ofakim, and by its inability to attract educated veteran citizens in addition to new immigrants. Netivot's growth was slow, its population rising from 1,231 in 1957 to 4,830 in 1968; 95% of the immigrants came from Tunisia and Morocco. One of Morocco's most renowned rabbis, Yisrael Abuhatzeira (the Baba Sali), settled there as well. After his death in 1984 his tomb became a major pilgrimage site, attracting hundreds of thousands of people every year. In the mid-1990s the population was approximately 13,600, rising further to 21,800 in 2002. The increase was due to the arrival of many new immigrants; 43% of the residents were below the age of 14. In 2000, Netivot received city status. The municipal area was 2.3 sq. mi (6 sq. km.). Most residents worked in local commerce and industry, with others commuting to the bigger cities of the region: Beersheba, Ashkelon, and Kiryat Gat. Income was about half the national average.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.