President Isaac Herzog participates in inauguration of auditorium in Rahat
President Isaac Herzog participates in inauguration of auditorium in Rahat Kobi Gideon (GPO)

Israeli President Isaac Herzog participated Tuesday in the inauguration of the first auditorium in the Bedouin Arab city of Rahat in southern Israel.

Deputy Interior Security Minister Yoav Segalovitz (Yesh Atid), MK Mansour Abbas (United Arab List), Mifal Hapais Chairman Avigdor Yitzhaki, and Rahat Mayor Fayez Abu Sahiban also participated in the ceremony.

The new auditorium in Rahat is the first in Bedouin society and one of the largest in the Negev. After the festive inauguration, the President met members of the Jewish-Bedouin charity Desert Stars.

President Isaac Herzog opened his remarks by saying: “The first Bedouin city, a city of over 70,000 residents, deserves a respectable and respectful auditorium.”

“Bedouin society is an important and influential part of the history and heritage of this area, and an important part of Israeli society. Bedouin society and Bedouin culture bring with them a connection to and respect for the area, for heritage and identity; they embrace them and flourish from within them. In a world that is led by trends and sanctifies the individual, Bedouin society and culture successfully create a sense of family and community without for a moment forgoing development and progress — making them therefore a source of pride for us, as a society and as a country.”

The President emphasized: “The fight to protect lives and the rule of law is our common fight. It is a fight by state authorities, a fight by the Israel Police—and yes, it is also a fight by the municipality, a fight by religious leaders, teachers at school, and parents at home. It is a struggle in which we must all join forces and fight together. Instead of sowing hatred and reaping chaos, we must sow hope and enjoy the fruits of partnership. We must see how close and how similar we are, and how strong we are when we choose each other, when we choose respect, and when we choose life.”

President Herzog concluded by saying: “Honored guests, the auditorium that we are inaugurating here today is a space of hope and honor. It is another layer in the story of the growth and success of the city of Rahat, which is becoming prettier — and safer. Thank you all for your hospitality, for the warm welcome, and for the fact that I am returning from here to Jerusalem more optimistic than before. And most importantly — mabrouk, Rahat!”

Fayez Abu Sahiban, Mayor of Rahat, said in his speech: “Rahat is a major metropolis for Bedouin society and for all residents of the western Negev. Many studies show that culture, art, and theater create quality of life, local pride, and socioeconomic development. We are proud of the auditorium in Rahat, which will combine the worlds of the spirit from east to west, and in addition to providing high-quality culture and leisure will symbolize inspiration, hope, and coexistence. In the finest of the Bedouin tradition, we welcome and invite everyone to this auditorium — ahlan wasahlan!”

The President then met members of Desert Stars, a Jewish-Bedouin charity that works to foster a new generation of young Bedouin leadership in the Negev. The organization was founded in 2013 by Matan Yaffe and Dr. Muhammad Al-Nabari. It operates programs to train young Bedouin men and women for social activism. During the meeting, the organization’s chairman and co-CEOs presented its work to the President, and he held an open conversation with participants, who presented their activities to him.

The President asked the participants what they had learned through Desert Stars. Lina Abu Sabitan, a 19-year-old participant from Tel Sheva, told the President about a visit that they had made with the organization to Bnei Brak and their encounter with representatives of haredi society: “The Jews don’t know everything yet about Bedouin society, and we don’t know everything about Jewish society, either. So many questions came up in the meeting, because it was the first time we had met people from different sections of society.”

The President told the participants in the Desert Stars program: “Managing a big society, a state, is a complicated matter. Israel is a special country and it has many communities. It is very important that Jewish society gets to know the story, structure, and culture of Bedouin society, and it is also important that Bedouin society gets to know the Jewish story and Jewish society. There is no other choice; only thus will we succeed.”

President Herzog wrapped up the meeting, saying: “I am here, as President, in order to tell you: Believe in yourselves; you’ll go far. You are doing something tremendous through Desert Stars to educate and familiarize yourselves with the other.”