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OFAKIM (Heb. אֳפָקִים; "Horizons"), development town, with municipal council status in southern Israel, 15 mi. (25 km.) N.W. of Beersheba. Ofakim was founded in 1955 as a regional center for the "Merḥavim" development region. The new immigrants who settled there suffered in the initial years from unemployment, low cultural standards, and severe social problems. The population, numbering 631 in the first year, grew to 9,200 by 1970. The majority (71%) of the inhabitants in 1965 were from Morocco and Tunisia; 5% came from India, 9% from Persia, 5% from Egypt, and the rest were from Europe or Israel-born. Families were large and the median age low, with 57.2% of the population below 20 years of age. With the opening of industrial enterprises in the 1960s (textiles, diamond polishing, bakery, basketmaking) Ofakim's economic situation improved and a manpower shortage developed. In the mid-1980s, 42% of Ofakim's employees worked in public and community services and another 20% in industry, mainly textile factories. Others were engaged in seasonal agricultural work. In the 1990s, the city's economic resources ran dry and unemployment increased as the population rose to 18,800 in the mid-1990s and then to 23,200 in 2002. The population increase was due to the absorption of new immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. Ofakim received city status in 1995, occupying an area of 4 sq. mi. (10 sq. km.). Income was about half the national average.

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