SHATIL launches high-profile Negev leadership initiative
January 19th 2010
In an effort to focus Negev leaders on the development of this severely neglected region in Israel, SHATIL last week launched the Negev Forum for Multi-sector Leadership. More than 40 of the region’s most influential community leaders gathered last week in Beersheva to kick off the initiative. Forum members will form ‘think-and-do tanks’ involving cross-collaboration on specific issues such as the development of affordable housing, promotion of employment and career opportunities, effective absorption of immigrants and promotion of Bedouin rights. And while this Forum will become a valuable network unto itself each individual brings his/her own networks, adding further value to the project.
Among those participating in the Forum and in attendance at the event were Dr. Rivka Carmi, president of Ben Gurion University; Muhammad Al-Nabari, mayor of the Bedouin town of Hura; Avishag Avtoli, director general of the Beersheva municipality; representatives of political parties from opposite sides of the political spectrum including Shas and United Arab List-Ta’al; the director of Ma’an, the umbrella organization for Bedouin women’s organizations and the director of Maslan for women against violence. Prominent forum members from the business sector include the president of Bell Technologies, the CEO of B.R.N Engineering, and the public relations representative of Israel’s most widely read newspaper, Yediot Achronot.
The event combined business with fun, as students from the acting school and theater in which the event was held mingled among the crowd, dressed in costumes and role-playing various characters. In order to facilitate relationships between this disparate group, the participants broke out into ‘café style’ groups of four where they engaged in groundbreaking conversations.
According to SHATIL Beersheva Co-Director, Yarona Ben-Shalom, who helped develop this initiative with Hannah Pesach-Hyman, Director of the Ministry of Interior’s Negev Bureau: “The discussions exposed life-long Negev residents to issues they knew nothing about. Many had not previously known of the existence of the Abu Basma Council of Unrecognized Villages! The chair of the Industrialists’ Union (who is a prominent business person in the Negev and internationally) became interested in promoting hand-made crafts of Bedouin women. At the same time, other participants were astounded to find out that the income from these crafts (as little as $5) is often the only money to which Bedouin women have independent access.”
In the weeks ahead, SHATIL and the participants will decide how best to move forward through a series of meetings, retreats and site visits. Every detail of the event was centered on promoting the Negev, from the location to the catering. Each participant received a hand stitched cloth packet made especially for this event by Bedouin women from Hura, containing information about the vision, interviews of the participants and itinerary. The profits from the packets will go directly to the women who embroidered them.
Shortly following the launch of this initiative, SHATIL partnered with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Beersheva Municipality in hosting a conference entitled, ‘What’s Happening in the Negev and What Does the Future Hold?”. Among the panel discussions were the benefits and drawbacks to the IDF’s plans to move several military bases to the region as well as the controversial plans to expand the Cross-Israel Highway (Route 6) which would displace some 3,000 individuals, primarily Bedouin. There were also extensive discussions about sustainable transportation as well as economic and environmental development. All these issues and more will be part of the agenda of the Negev Forum for Multi-sector Leadership.