On October 24, 2017, a graduation ceremony for the Mandel Program for Local Leadership in Wadi al-Khalil was held in the presence of Professor Jehuda Reinharz, president of the Mandel Foundation; Mr. Moshe Vigdor, director general of the Mandel Foundation–Israel; Mr. Ibrahim al-Hawashla, the head of the Neve Midbar Regional Council; Mr. Yisrael Budick, director of the Southern District at the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, and Social Services; the directors of the Mandel Foundation–Israel, the members of the program’s steering committee, and the program’s directors and faculty members. Also in attendance were the families of the graduating fellows and graduates of previous leadership programs of the Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev.
The theme of the ceremony was “Leadership as the Basis for Real-World Change,” and the event reaffirmed the importance that the Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev attaches to active leadership that takes responsibility for leading real-world change and meaningful action. Professor Jehuda Reinharz emphasized the Mandel Foundation’s commitment to the Negev, and spoke about the ways in which the program’s fellows work to promote enterprises and processes of change aimed at improving and advancing the quality of life of Negev residents. Professor Reinharz also related to the importance of translating ideas into practical action, and to the role of Mandel programs in developing leadership identity.
The subject of values as the basis for real-world social change was also discussed. Dr. Adi Nir-Sagi, the director of the Center, noted the commitment of the Wadi al-Khalil fellows to analyze, critique, and seek to improve a complex reality “in which social solidarity must be promoted and modern values developed, while also maintaining important and long-standing traditions.” Dr. Nir-Sagi stressed the great role the program plays in strengthening the connection between the communities in the Neve Midbar region, and in developing an influential leadership cadre.
Professor Jihad El-Sana, a member of the program’s steering committee and head of the Computer Science Department at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, spoke about the complex challenges facing leaders in general, and the Wadi al-Khalil fellows in particular. He also underlined the courage, commitment, and determination that the graduates will need in order to help build a better civil society.
The program directors, Dr. Rotem Bresler-Gonen and Kassim Alsraiha, warmly congratulated the fellows they led over the last two years, and emphasized the uniqueness of the Wadi al-Khalil program, which was made up of grass-roots leaders seeking to take responsibility for their own futures. The directors described the long and meaningful journey taken by the fellows, which included in-depth learning, commitment, and vision, which strengthened and will continue to strengthen their leadership capabilities for the future.
Speaking on behalf of the graduates was Yunis Nbare, a founding member of a non-profit organization dedicated to the social and economic development of Israel’s Bedouin community. He spoke with great passion about how the Center served as a warm home for the fellows, in which they underwent conceptual, emotional, and personal change – a home in which they grew, connected with each other, and changed. He described how the program and the learning process helped him and his colleagues develop their commitment to change and to real-world action. In conclusion, he thanked the president of the Mandel Foundation, Professor Jehuda Reinharz, the management of the Mandel Foundation, the faculty members, their tutors, and the administrative staff of the Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev.