Celebrating 58 winners of the 2023 Cycle
Summer of 2023 marked the return of the Daughters For Life Foundation’s (DFL) Awards Program for the first time since 2016. The well received program is one that aims to alleviate the financial burden from Middle Eastern students in their junior years of undergraduate study by bestowing a financial award in recognition of resilience against hardship, financial need, a dedication to academic excellence as well as contributions to the lives of fellow young women and girls in the local community of each awardee. After the unprecedented global impact of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, students are in greater need, and young women in particular pursuing their higher education need more support than ever before to overcome the obstacles they’re faced with culturally, financially and personally to achieve the best they can for themselves and their communities.
The planning stages of the program led to an organised rollout that occurred in accordance with a timeline. Along with the above requirements, successful applicants were required to submit a completed online application form, their supporting documents consisting of academic transcripts and CVs where applicable, and a faculty reference. This combination of documents alongside the nomination through the applicant’s university or college amounts to a complete application package. Prior to the ceremonies, a rigorous selection process was undertaken to determine successful recipients of DFL’s Award.
Our foundation’s President and founder Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish spent the month of July travelling to be in personal attendance at all 5 of the awards ceremonies held on the vibrant campuses of our 5 academic partners across Palestine and Israel for the 2023 cycle of the program. Israa University, Gaza University, the University of Haifa, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Achva Academic College were our participating institutions this year. Our team at DFL spearheaded by Jacklin collaborated on the logistical details surrounding the delivery of the program, including clarifying student nomination requirements, ceremony organization and maintaining a clear exchange in communications throughout the process. As both an honoured guest speaker, attendee and award presenter, Dr. Abuelaish was delighted to be in the presence of the awardees who embody each institution’s finest scholars as well as serve as the future leaders in their communities.
His first stop was in Palestine where he visited the campuses of Gaza University and Israa University on July 5th for a day of celebrating the awardees.
The events began at 11:00 AM at Gaza University’s conference hall, the President of the university Dr. Hassan Abu Jarad, opened with a warm welcome to all the guests which was followed by remarks from Dr. Abuelaish who reiterated his commitment to adopting projects such as the awards program as well as other initiatives that contribute to Palestinian success.
The economic hardship endured by many including the university’s student body is one among many issues that Dr. Abuelaish hopes to tackle through the Daughters for Life Foundation’s programs and continued efforts, utilising education as the vehicle of transformational growth, healing and new beginnings. 16 award recipients were celebrated and presented with their commemorative certificates with their families and members of faculty present
Later in the day, he travelled to Al-Zahraa City where was joined by co-presenter Dr. Abdel-Khaeq Al-Farra, the President of Al-Israa University at the university’s Al-Qudus Hall to honour an additional 16 recipients. In his opening comments, Dr. Al-Farra expressed the significance of the Awards Program as well as DFL’s core mission of bridging the gaps of disadvantage for women hailing from Middle Eastern nations including Palestine. He noted that Dr. Abuelaish in particular sets a wonderful example, stressing the importance and value of joint efforts such as that which made the delivery of the Awards Program at Israa University possible.
On July 12th, the second half of the ceremonies picked up, starting from one held at Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev. Oren Hall served as the ceremony venue, situated in the Marcus Family Campus in Israel’s region of Be’er-Sheva. A total of 40 attendees gathered at 3:45pm, including Dr. Abuelaish. Some of the distinguished guests included the Canadian Ambassador to Israel, Her Excellency Lisa Stadelbauer, BGU’s own President, Professor Daniel Chamovitz, Vice President for Diversity & Inclusion Professor Sarab Abu-Rabia-Queder, the Presidential Advisor for Gender Equity, Professor Halleli Pinson, Incoming Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Professor Yaniv Gelbstein, Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Professor Gabriel Lemcoff, the outgoing and the incoming Deans of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Professors David Wettstein and Nirit Ben-Aryeh Debby, the head of the department of Life Sciences, Professor Raz Zarivach, the head of the BGU-FOR Institute Professor Dorit Nitzan, among 10 additional members of faculty. The event was moderated superbly by Professor Halleli Pinson.
In President Professor Chamovitz’s remarks, he mentioned the ways that DFL represents Dr. Abuelaish’s area of research interest, examining hate as a disease-like entity in the world that must be combated with peace, compassion and love as a choice response. He said:
“This is exactly what the DFL does – spreads a positive outlook of the world. This amazing foundation is aligned with our perspective as a university,”, going on to express the tightly aligned values held by Ben-Gurion and DFL as collaborators. A total of 8 award winners were celebrated.
On July 16th, the final award ceremonies were held. Starting with the memorable events held at Achva Academic College at 9:45am, 70 attendees gathered in the early morning to welcome Dr. Abuelaish and to recognize the college’s 9 award recipients. Among those in attendance was legal scholar, human rights activist and President of Achva Academic College, Professor Yifat Bitton, as well as Professor Pinchas Dahan, the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Sarah Friedman, the Chairman of the Board Committee, and Dr. Michal Revivo the Dean of Students. Many faculty department heads and administrative staff were also present as the ceremony opened, including a special friend of Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, young Aya and her mother from Nes Ziyona.
One noteworthy moment was when one of the award recipients, Hodaya Eliahu, shared her gratitude upon being awarded, sharing a piece of her story with those present.
“The challenge of growing up alongside a disabled sister, cultivated my desire to study speech therapy; I wanted so much to give people the ability to speak, to make their voices heard in the world,” She said, “I want to thank the daughters for Life foundation, an organization that does not choose the easy way, that pursues peace and goodness every day. Thank you for choosing to help us continue to do good in this world, not only because [of] our academic achievements but also because of our values.”
– Hodaya Eliahu, 2023 Awards Program Recipient
Yasmin Abu Taha, another award recipient, was responsible for performing the beautiful closing of the ceremony with a rendition of “Halavai” by Boaz Sharabi, the title translating from Hebrew to the phrase “if only” in English, a song that encapsulates the call for peace that Dr. Abuelaish has long championed over the course of his life.
The performance was succeeded by a deeply moving and surprising revelation from Yasmin’s mother to Dr. Abuelaish upon recognizing him as the attending obstetrician who oversaw Yasmin’s birth 20 years earlier. Addressing him directly to recount this and other memories, Yasmin’s mother was tearful as she said:
“We all followed in real time the tragedy that befell you and we grieved with you. Today is a closure for me. What you wanted to give to your daughters, today you give to our daughters. I promise you that they will continue to give and to act for the advancement of more women and girls, and to promote peace and compassion to other, regardless of their origins.”
– Yasmin Abu Taha, 2023 Awards Program Recipient’s mother
This exchange which touched Dr. Abuelaish deeply was the end note to a meaningful ceremony.
Finally, at 4:00 PM on July 16th at the University of Haifa’s Eyal Ofer Family Conference Hall on the 30th floor of the Eshkol Tower, the reception for the last Awards Program ceremony kicked off. Guests included the university’s President Ron Robin, the Dean of Students Professor Batya Engel-Yeger, and the Director of the Social Engagement Unit at the Dean of Students Office, Dr. Yael Granot-Bein, among many other attendees. The ceremony highlighted that 2023 was the sixth year that the DFL Awards Program delivered awards to students at the University of Haifa, putting the spotlight on a long-term partnership. During the ceremony, Professor Engel-Yeger underlined the shared vision and values held by both DFL and the University of Haifa. A continued pursuit of peace in the Middle East with accessibility in education at the heart is woven into the guiding vision of both organizations. A total of 9 award winners were honoured.
This cycle of the Awards Program was a deeply moving one, and we look eagerly forward to developing and launching the next! In the meantime, be sure to stay connected with the Daughters for Life Foundation for announcements related to future program launches and calls for applications.