ME 2.0's Annual Weekend Seminar to Rahat
FNF Jerusalem just conducted the annual weekend study seminar for the members of its ME 2.0 Palestinian-Israeli Young Business Leaders Forum. The bilateral Forum provides a platform for young entrepreneurs, professionals and business people from both sides of the green line to professionally network, learn about each other’s economy and new business and innovation trends, meet key people from the business and political arena and explore opportunities for economic cooperation and the existing hurdles to the latter.
Next to the forum’s bimonthly meetings, the members convene once in a year for a more intensive weekend seminar, during which they learn about a specific economic topic of their interest and engage in discussions about the next steps of the forum. The weekend activity also allows the members more time for personal encounter and exchange.
This weekend the members traveled to the Negev desert to learn more about the economic and social integration of the Bedouin society in Israel. For this purpose, the forum had an extensive visit to the city of Rahat, the largest Bedouin city in the world, with around 70.000 Bedouin citizens.
The program included the visit of the new industrial zone Idan HaNegev, which is a joint venture between the southern districts of Rahat, Lehavim and Bnei Shimon and hosts more than 30 factories that provide employment for thousands of residents – Jews and Arabs. The place was a vision of former Israeli President and peace laureate Shimon Peres. The group met the CEO of the industrial park and a young local entrepreneur who has opened up his own digital marketing firm in the premises of Idan HaNegev, the first one of its kind in Rahat. As the group learnt, for many young Bedouin professionals their ethnic background seems to be still a hurdle in the competition on the Israeli job market and some simply choose the path of entrepreneurship to compensate for missing employment opportunities. While meanwhile more and more Arab and Jewish civil society initiatives try to find ways to reach out and prepare Arab citizens for the demands of the Israeli job market.
Most impressing for the forum members were the female entrepreneurs, who seem to be a rising power and real change makers in the Bedouin society. While mainly keeping their traditional way of conduct, they still have found their ways of becoming a meaningful and striving economic force with businesses in the sectors of tourism, traditional cuisine, traditional herb cosmetics, wedding beauty business and much more.
Another evolving field in the Bedouin society is the rediscovery of traditional Bedouin agriculture. The Wadi Attir Project, the group visited, is a laboratory for ecological farming, which combines traditional Bedouin agriculture with modern technology. Most evident was that the understanding of education as the real game changer regarding the prospects of a better economic and social standing, gains more and more popularity. Jewish and Arab civil society organization do important work to strengthen education horizons for the Bedouin society, of which 65% are under 18 years old, while the gaps are still appallingly wide.
The forum members gained many new insights into the upcoming entrepreneurship scene of the Bedouin society, expanded their network, and discussed solutions for challenges to employment and entrepreneurship in the Bedouin society and offered their expertise and networks.The two days study seminar also left room for in-group work discussing challenges the ME 2.0 Palestinian Israeli Young Business Leaders Forum is facing, like local and regional outreach, branding, and strategic collaborations. We are happy to share some impressions with you.