On November 6, the Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev (MCLN) launched a program to train local leaders in Rahat and the Arab community in the Negev, which will run through June 2014.
Several rationales led to opening the program: first, it continues the current wave of leadership development for Arab society in the Negev as part of the collaboration that has been forged between MCLN and Arab society in the Negev through previous programs. Second, it reinforces social and cultural processes that have taken place in the Negev in recent years. There has been a marked advance in the level of discourse and action, civil society has developed extensively, political leadership in the local authorities has seen significant changes, and alternatives to traditional leadership have developed. Finally, there is a grassroots social need, as manifested by the applications submitted by candidates from all over the Negev who have expressed a strong commitment and desire to participate in the program and to take responsibility for the situation.
After a meticulous recruitment and screening process, 13 individuals (six women and seven men) were selected to participate in the program. Seven of them live in Rahat; the rest are from communities throughout the Negev. The participants have diverse professional backgrounds: teachers and educators who work in the formal and informal education systems, as well as administrators and professionals. The program has several goals: to form a group committed to the region whose members will work together, both with other program participants and with other organizations, in order to influence the quality of life enjoyed by Arab society in the Negev; to develop the participants’ leadership abilities based on professional and value-based reasoning; to reinforce their ability to promote visionary change in the region; and to begin to modify and enhance the environment in which they live, already while the program is still in progress.
The curriculum is based on several main units: identity and values - the crystallization of a world-view, values, identity, and gender identity; location and livelihood - spatial and geographical aspects, city and urban life, the Arab Bedouins of the Negev, social and economic issues, and power relations (local and central government); and leadership, policy, and vision - local leadership, vision, definition of problems, and alternatives for action. The units will be studied in parallel in order to help create a strong theoretical foundation. The program will also combine theory and practice and help participants acquire various tools, enhancing their ability to think about and critically analyze the situation as part of their development of reflective introspection and honing their writing skills.
At the opening ceremony, Dr. Itzhak (Kiki) Aharonovich, co-director of the program along with Dr. Safa Abu-Rabia, noted that the program is intended to help its participants lead Arab society in the Negev as a whole and their home communities in particular - especially Rahat - to a brighter future. In her remarks, Adi Nir-Sagi, director of MCLN, expressed her confidence in the participants’ abilities to change the circumstances in which they live through a process of learning, research and reflection, thanks to their strong commitment to themselves and to their surroundings. Nir-Sagi stressed her belief that the participants’ learning and training experience will lead them to new paths for social change, catalyzed by their deep commitment and hope for better life in the Negev.