At the end of January, the Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev held its traditional joint study day, bringing together fellows of the active local leadership programs – the third cohort of the Beer Sheva program, and the Wadi al-Khalil program – for a day of dialogue, learning, and socializing, to help create a community of leaders who influence quality of life throughout the Negev. This year's event was planned by the fellows Marwat Genaim, Gal Horev, Yunis Nbare, Snir Peleg, and Khader Mahdi, together with faculty members Dr. Smadar Ben-Asher and Kassim Alsraiha.
Fellows from both programs visited the Wadi Atir Project, an innovative enterprise of the Bedouin community to establish a farm based on sustainable planning, located south of Hura. The visit included a session introducing the fellows from each program to each other; a guided tour of the facility with the project director, Yunis Nbare, who is himself a participant in the Wadi al-Khalil program; an inspiring meeting with the project's founder, Dr. Michael Ben-Eli, a researcher in environmental ecology and cybernetics; and a moving conversation with Dr. Muhammad al-Nabari, head of the Hura regional council, who has also played a key role in supporting and promoting the initiative.
Dr. Ben-Eli spoke about the process of turning big ideas and dreams, such as the Wadi Atir Project, into reality. He described his understanding of a sustainable ecological system: one that allows a population to make the most of its potential, as long as it does no harm to the existing environment. For Ben-Eli, human beings are part of nature, and must act in harmony with it.
Dr. al-Nabari described his philosophy for successful leadership and leading change. "The most important thing you must produce is hope; the number one enemy in society is ignorance and stereotyping," he said.