Mr. Yehuda Naftali, an Israeli-American real estate entrepreneur, dedicated Tel Aviv University’s Botanic Garden in his name in the framework of the 2019 Board of Governors meeting. A true oasis in the heart of Tel Aviv, the Garden is a living laboratory for plant sciences research and a vital resource for nature conservation and public education in Israel.

Outgoing TAU President Joseph Klafter said, “The Yehuda Naftali Garden will serve as a cornerstone of the University’s research and educational activities in biodiversity. The newly-modernized facilities will give a substantial boost to plant sciences and sustainable development, and especially to innovations in food security.  We can’t wait to see the dramatic improvements that will come about thanks to the generous gift.”


Mr. Naftali described his reasons for supporting the Botanic Garden, including his growing up on a kibbutz and job as a shepherd, which was his first connection with nature. “Now I’ve come full circle to be part of this Botanic Garden,” he said. “The entire Garden is like one giant laboratory, and I’m really excited that it will serve as an educational center for people to learn about nature, particularly children from the big cities who sometimes believe that food grows in the supermarkets!” 


Upgrading a high-traffic site

The Garden is already a vibrant national attraction with over 10,000 visitors per year. With the opening last year of the adjacent Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, this number could increase to 300,000, potentially making the Garden the most high-traffic site of its kind in the country.

​Yehuda Naftali planting a tree at the inauguration ceremony


The Naftali funding will enable sweeping improvements of the Garden’s research, teaching and conservation facilities. In addition, a perpetual endowment fund will ensure the long-term mission of advancing agricultural, conservation and sustainable development research, together with educating new generations on ecological and environmental issues.


A resident of Los Angeles, Yehuda Naftali has more than 40 years of experience in the real estate business. He founded Big Shopping Centers, Ltd., in 1994, and BIG Shopping Centers USA, Inc., in 2010. He serves as the Chairman of the Board for both companies. Mr. Naftali translated his accomplishments in the United States into even greater success in Israel, where he pioneered the open-air shopping center concept.


“The Garden will be redeveloped and flourish, and will help Planet Earth and humankind. Thank you all for coming to celebrate with me,” he concluded. 

Featured image: Yehuda Naftali (left) and outgoing President Joseph Klafter