NEW YORK, June 13, 2011—The Institute of International Education (IIE) announced today that Amal Elsana Alh'jooj and Vivian Silver, Co-Executive Directors of the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development (NISPED), have been selected to receive the 2011 Victor J. Goldberg IIE Prize for Peace in the Middle East. The award, which includes a $10,000 prize, will be presented at a ceremony in the Peace Tent (Al Sa'adah) in Rahat, the only Bedouin community in the Negev that has attained the official status of city. The event will be hosted by IIE in cooperation with the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. Andrew Parker, the Consul General at the U.S. Embassy, will make opening remarks at the award ceremony, which will be held on Tuesday, June 21, beginning at 5:15 p.m.
IIE Trustee Victor J. Goldberg said, "This award recognizes innovation, and rewards those who are courageous and committed enough to work together to overcome the religious, cultural, ethnic, and political issues which divide the Middle East. We hope that the dedication shown by our prize winners will inspire others to join together across these divides to advance the cause of peace in the coming years."
Amal Elsana Alh'jooj, an Arab citizen of Israel, and Vivian Silver, a Jewish citizen of Israel, will receive the Goldberg Prize in recognition of their efforts to promote peace and development by working to build a more just society in Israel, in which the Jewish majority and the Arab minority can have equal rights and opportunities. Specifically, the Prize honors 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).
This is the first time that the Goldberg IIE Prize is being awarded to two women leaders. The winners of the 2011 Prize are some of the first women to lead a major social change organization in Israel. Ms. Elsana Alh'jooj and Ms. Silver direct AJEEC’s programs to foster community and economic development and to empower young leaders, women and men. They have changed thousands of lives in the region through their innovative, holistic approaches to development, including the “Arab-Bedouin Volunteer Tent”, the “Arab Jewish Volunteer Gap-Year Program”, the “Negev Belongs to Us All” partnership program, and the “Women and Infants' Health Promotion Project."
As a result of Ms. Elsana Alh'jooj and Ms. Silver’s leadership and profound impact, the organization has been invited to play a crucial role in the first-of-its-kind joint Jewish–Arab Employment Park - the "Era of the Negev" government-initiated partnership of the Bnei Shimon Regional Council, the Bedouin city of Rahat and the Jewish community of Lehavim. AJEEC will implement its signature model that combines personal empowerment, vocational training and principles of entrepreneurship to train hundreds of Arab Bedouin women who will be employed by diverse enterprises participating in the initiative.
Amal Elsana Alh'jooj grew up in the Bedouin community of the Negev where AJEEC operates. She began her lifelong work as a community organizer as an adolescent by establishing the first Arab Bedouin women's organization in the Negev. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in social work at Ben-Gurion University where she was one of two Bedouin women students and a Master’s degree in community development at McGill University in Canada. Upon her return from Canada, she continued to implement innovative methods of changing conditions for the Arab minority in Israel and the Bedouin of the Negev in particular. Ms. Elsana Alh'jooj is an esteemed thought leader on the status of the Arab minority and the status of women in Israel. She is a member of the Prime Minister’s Commission for Economic Development of the Arab Sector; a member of the Steering Committee of Shutafut-Sharaka; one of the founders of Hagar – Jewish Arab Education for Equality—one of four Jewish Arab bilingual elementary schools in Israel and a member of Shatil’s Negev Leaders Network.
Vivian Silver grew up in Winnipeg, Canada and moved to Israel in 1974 where she was a founding member of the reestablished Kibbutz Gezer. Increasingly disturbed by gender inequality and the widening gap in the treatment of Israel's Jewish and Arab citizens, she focused her work in these areas. Ms. Silver was the founder and first director of the Department to Advance Gender Equality in the United Kibbutz Movement and a member of the Knesset sub-committee for the Advancement of Women in Work and the Economy. She is a founding member and was the first Chair of Shutafut-Sharaka, a forum of civil society organizations committed to advancing democratic values and promoting an equal and shared society for all Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs alike. Ms. Silver is a member of Kibbutz Beeri and helped to found the kibbutz's philanthropic fund to support grassroots, social change projects in the Negev.
IIE, a non-profit organization founded in 1919 and headquartered in New York City, created the Goldberg IIE Prize with an endowment from IIE's Executive Committee member and former Vice Chairman, Victor J. Goldberg. The Selection Committee for the Prize includes leading experts from academia, the non-profit sector, and government.
Mr. Goldberg and Peggy Blumenthal, IIE’s Senior Counselor to the President, will present the 2011 winners with the $10,000 Prize. According to Ms. Blumenthal, "The winners we celebrate each year exemplify the kinds of joint action that are needed to resolve conflicts in this region and around the world. They embody Vic Goldberg's long-time commitment to bettering the world through international cooperation."
See past winners of the Goldberg IIE Prize for Peace in the Middle East
Goldberg IIE Prize for Peace in the Middle East Selection Committee