On December 12, the Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev (MCLN) hosted a study day about the town of Arad. Some 80 individuals attended the event - most of them Arad residents, including Mayor Tali Ploskov and directors of municipal departments.
This event provided the opportunity to take another look at what is taking place in Arad, in the wake of a study conducted by Dr. Batya Roded and Dr. Itzhak (Kiki) Aharonovich. The study was part of a learning process in advance of the launch of the Arad local leadership program, which took place at MCLN in 2009–2010. The last in-depth study of Arad before this one was published in 1979. The marked absence of academic studies on small and mid-sized towns makes it difficult to understand the concept of urbanism as it relates to such towns.
The event opened with three lectures. The first, “Arad, Past and Future: Dangers and Potential,” was given by Dr. Aharonovich as a general introduction to the town and weighed Arad's potential versus the dangers that stem from the government policy he termed “neglect and control.” In the second lecture, “The Landscapes of Local Identity and the Demand for the Right to Arad,” Dr. Batya Roded presented the right to a town as reflected by residents’ activities related to various municipal issues, some reactive and some proactive. The third lecture, by Dr. Arnon Ben Yisrael, dealt with Road 31 and its implications as a seemingly instrumental site which creates and tells the spatial narrative of Arad and of the Arab localities situated along its route.
After a brief recess, three graduates of the Arad leadership program presented initiatives they are working on. Nili Surkis, director of the Youth Center in Arad, spoke about its programs and the challenges faced by teens in the periphery. Sharon Delman presented the mediation and dialogue center that she established in Arad just over a year ago. Anna Sandler, director of the municipal tourist department, presented what the town can offer and the strategic plan that is currently taking shape. The three graduates’ presentations were impressive and inspired hope and faith in the ability of these women and of their activities to effect change in the town.
The final segment of the evening was devoted to a panel on the topic of urban planning in Arad, led by Yaakov Laks (Laksi). As part of the panel, Pazit Shauli looked at Arad’s architecture and Orna Angel discussed current economic developments. Adv. Jacob Steinberg, former director of MCLN, was present at the event. He chaired the first session and stressed the need to hold similar in-depth discussions about other small towns. We would like to thank Steinberg and our partner, Dr. Bayta Roded, for taking part in the study day.