Abigail Klein Leichman
July 25, 2023

Arab Israeli Mohammed Alnabari and Jewish Israeli Matan Yaffe received the 2023 IIE Victor J. Goldberg Prize for the peace-building work of Desert Stars, the organization they cofounded to bring a new generation of cross-tribal leadership to Israel’s southern Bedouin community.

Approximately 250,000 Arab Bedouins live in nine Bedouin municipalities and dozens of herding and farming villages throughout the Negev Desert. Tribal rivalries limit their interaction and cooperation. The birthrate is high, as are high-school dropout and unemployment figures.

Desert Stars operates a high school, two gap-year programs, a youth movement, and alumni program to help participants succeed in higher education and build careers.

“Matan and Mohammed model true partnership, and demonstrate how two leaders from very different backgrounds can accomplish a dream when working together in full trust and belief in one another,” said Goldberg a retired IBM executive and longtime IIE trustee who created and endowed the prize in 2005.

“Their programs aim to create a network of young leaders by empowering mission-driven young people to realize their individual and collective potential, in order to address poverty, high unemployment rates, and disenfranchisement in the Negev Bedouin community. Their vision is to create groundbreaking Bedouin leadership that unites the Negev and strengthens Israeli society.”

IIE has awarded the Victor J. Goldberg Prize in Israel annually for 19 years to recognize outstanding collaborative peace-building work by a Muslim Arab individual and a Jewish Israeli individual. Chosen by a selection committee of leaders from business, academia, the not-for-profit sector and government, the winners share a $20,000 prize.

Desert Stars is now building Israel’s first Bedouin youth village, the Jusidman Campus for Bedouin Leadership. This boarding school will house “stars” living side by side with staff, classmates, and older students serving as mentors and role models.

Jewish, Arab cofounders of Desert Stars win peace prize
The April 2022 groundbreaking for Desert Stars’ future youth village. Adults shown, from left: board member Igal Jusidman, Matan Yaffe, Mohammed Alnabari and board member Major General Nitzan Alon. Photo courtesy of Desert Stars

“We will blend formal and informal education to nurture our stars’ natural talents, foster their intellect and entrepreneurial spirit, and promote healthy cognitive, social, and emotional development,” Yaffe and Alnabari said in a written statement. “The village will allow us to create a transformative experience for our stars and reach many more promising students, ensuring a large, active, and effective network of future Bedouin leaders.”

Goldberg commented, “In this time of violent conflict, we believe it is more important than ever to share stories of grassroots success so that they may encourage and inspire others. This year’s winners are a great example of the brave individuals and groups who are working together to try to make life better in their communities and the region. While there is no magic solution, one positive force is to encourage people to live and work together toward mutual goals, learning to trust and depend on one another for their common good.”

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