The Bedouins constitute one-third of the population of the Negev. It is young population group in Israel – with some 65% under the age of 21. It is also the most marginalized group in Israeli society, positioned at the bottommost of all socioeconomic scales. Bedouin youths feel alienated and frustrated by decades of institutional neglect and bias, the gap between their dreams and talents and their inability to break-through the cultural, educational and infrastructural barriers; they are trapped – metaphorically and geographically – in the desert.
The Turning Point program offers young Bedouin adults a way out; an opportunity to change the course of their lives, learn and widen their horizons, develop leadership abilities and nurture a set of values and habits to guide them and their community in future years. The program is a joint initiative of Beit Morasha and the Desert Stars organization, offered to young Bedouin men and women participating in the Bedouin Social and Entrepreneurial Leadership Incubator – an intensive holistic training program for the most talented and motivated Bedouin men and women during gap year.
Turning Point takes participants on a year-long internal and external journey. It involves a thorough process of study and examination of the participants´ particular and group identities, their sense of belonging, values and perceptions. Participants learn and are acquainted with Israeli society and its diversity, the state institutions, democracy, and policy. They meet key people from the public, private and voluntary sectors and with leaders and peers from other groups composing Israeli society, and partake in multicultural events. At the end of the journey, they are able – for the first time in their lives and, possibly, the first among their families and friends – to build a bridge between the Bedouin community and entire Israeli society based on values and a sense of belongings; a bridge that will lead them from the margins to the center, from hopelessness and isolation to purposefulness and inclusion.
Program participants are some 45 young Bedouin men, high-school graduates (18-20) of all tribes, who have successfully completed an intensive and highly demanding admissions process that lasts throughout the 12th grade and focuses on leadership potential, motivation and learning capacity. In addition, and for the first time, the program offers two new tracks: one for young women high-school graduates and another one for the Desert Stars School’s teachers in order to instil the identity, belonging and entrepreneurial mindset among the school´s students (future program participants).