When we launched Ameinu in 2005, we decided that an important element of our strategy would be identifying organizations in Israel with whom we could create true partnerships. We wanted Ameinu members to be able to connect in a personal way with our progressive counterparts in Israel. Our relationship with one such organization, NISPED (Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development), has turned out to be a true success in many ways. We have helped them in their general fundraising efforts in the United States, while our Los Angeles chapter has adopted and funded specific projects recommended by NISPED leadership.
All of our organizational missions have visited NISPED’s projects in the Negev and their dynamic co-executive directors, Amal Elsana Alh’jooj and Vivian Silver, have spoken many times to Ameinu audiences over the years in the United States. With this background, it is with enormous pride and admiration that we received the news that Amal and Vivian had been chosen for a prestigious and deserving honor.
Last week at the Peace Tent (Al Sa’ada) in the Arab Bedouin city of Rahat, they received the Goldberg Prize in recognition of their efforts to promote peace and development within the Jewish and Arab society in Israel. Specifically, they were recognized for their initiatives to train and empower the Arab Bedouin community of the Negev with a particular emphasis on the crucial role of women in the process of community development, through the Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation (AJEEC).
The event was hosted by Institute of International Education (IIE) in cooperation with the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. Andrew Parker, the US Embassy Consul General gave opening remarks. Mr. Victor Goldberg, initiator of the Goldberg Peace Prize and Ms. Peggy Blumenthal, senior counselor IIE presented the award. The event was attended by more than 200 persons including distinguished guests, Mr. Faiz Abu Sehiban, Mayor of Rahat, members of the international diplomatic corps, and national and regional policy makers.
Amal pointed out how this prize is especially significant because “while I have received prizes in the United States and Europe, this is the first time that I have the honor of having my work celebrated here, together with my family, friends and my people”. She continued by emphasizing her pride in the Arab Bedouin of the Negev, “My people are strong. We are part of the solution and not the problem.”
Vivian eloquently summed up the meaning of this prize for her and her co-executive director, “In a sense we are a microcosm of what our two peoples could potentially be – open to each other\’s cultures, respectful of our differences, working for a better world for both our peoples.”
I know that Amal and Vivian enjoyed the ceremony and the recognition….and got back to work the next day to further realize their vision. I would expect nothing less of these two Israeli social justice heroes and we at Ameinu plan to continue to broaden our support for their efforts in the years to come.