After months of expectation, recruitment, admissions, and planning, the Mandel Center for Leadership in the Negev has launched its newest program – the Mandel program for local leadership in Wadi al-Khalil, directed by Kassim Alsraiha and Dr. Rotem Bresler Gonen.
There are 17 fellows in the program - six women and 11 men, from Hura, Lakiya, Tel Sheva and the unrecognized Bedouin settlements in the area. The fellows hold advanced academic degrees and are engaged in a variety of social issues in the Negev in the fields of education, welfare, youth, and health services.
The first day of the program, on October 7, was marked with a festive opening ceremony. Adi Nir-Sagi, MCLN director, addressed the incoming fellows and stressed the importance of change-making leadership for the Negev. She began her remarks with the words of the ninth-century Islamic philosopher Al-Farabi, who describes in his book “The Opinions of the People of the Virtuous City” the relation between leadership characteristics and the city in which the leadership is conducted.
The program directors emphasized the nature of the program as being tailored to its participants, all of whom contribute their spirit of social action and change. The focus of the first day’s studies was on questions of identity - its formation, its crises and how it changes over the course of a lifetime. The opening session hosted MK Prof. Yossi Yonah, who related his own personal story and spoke about the insights on the subject of identity he has gained from his research. He believes that identity is a dynamic process, in flux and never fixed, and that this is a source for great optimism - we can contain within ourselves multiple identities and from this variety, grow and change as people. Yonah also claims that identities are formed by interactions with society. That is, our identity is largely constructed from our relations with others, and thus positive dialogue between people is important to prevent us from becoming isolated and from reaching a self-definition (individual or shared) based on our difference from others.
The Mandel program for local leadership in Wadi al-Khalil will be conducted over the course of two years. The first year will be given over to group building, to theoretical and practical study and to vision development. The second year will place a greater emphasis on learning from practice. The aim of the program is to create a local leadership group that will act on the basis of a shared professional and social vision, and will be involved in leading change processes throughout the Wadi al-Khalil region.