​​​​​The Ben-Gurion Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism
The Israel Studies Program 

Havatzelet Yahel.jpg

My life before BGU:

I was born and raised in Tel Aviv and attended the Har Nevo and  Alharizi schools.  For high-school I studied in the physics track at the Amal Lady Davis School. While studying for my bachelor's degree in economics and LLB in law at Tel-Aviv University, I worked in an accountant's office and later in a lawyer's office. I did my legal training in the State Attorney's Office in the Tel Aviv district. I continued to work there as a prosecutor in a variety of civil matters, while specializing in the fiscal field. When our family moved to the Negev, I joined the State Attorney's Office in the southern district, where I was the founder and director of the Land Department.

In 2006, I was sent by the State of Israel to study in the US for a year, after receiving the Israel Wexner Fellowship for excellence in the public sector. On returning to Israel, I was appointed as Deputy to the Southern District Attorney (Civil Matters), a position I held until 2014. In that position, I represented the State of Israel in a variety of court cases. I also served as a member in many policy-making forums and was an advisor to the Goldberg Commission whose mission was to present a solution to the land and settlement conflicts between the State and the Negev Bedouins.

At the same time I studied for an MPA at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. That is where I caught the academic bug and when I returned to Israel I decided to continue my studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. At first I completed geography requirements and then went on to doctoral studies in historical geography. In April 2016 I received my PhD for my research "The Policy of the Israeli Government and State Authorities Regarding the Negev Bedouin: 1947 – 1989". In 2015-2017, I was a Kreitman Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Research Institute for the Study of Israel & Zionism.

My research: 

My research is focused on the integration between history, geography and law. At the center are interdisciplinary questions concerning the rights of minorities, nomads and indigenous communities, relating especially to policies concerning land and settlement.

Why BGU?
As a resident of the Negev and as someone for whom the land in the Negev and its population are the focus of research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is the first and natural choice. On arriving at the Ben-Gurion Institute at Sede Boqer, at the beginning of my post-doc, I fell in love with the prevailing atmosphere and the people. Activities in the Institute are carried out with the knowledge of the public commitment by Israeli academia to the citizens of the country, and with recognition of the significance strengthening the ties between academia with the wider Israeli public. It's a special delight to participate in academic work alongside researchers who encourage the voicing of a range of opinions in a critical debate. It's a research incubator which puts into practice the ideals of open and attentive intellectual dialogue. In my understanding this is academia at its best.

An insight from my research:
The State of Israel is good at putting plans together, but weak at actually implementing them.

Something that doesn't appear on my resume:
I am a founder and board member of the Non-profit "Hagshama" for the empowerment of the Shibli-Um el-Ganem Bedouin villages in the Galilee.

A source of inspiration:
My sister Hagit, who with her outstanding abilities succeeds in channeling her yearning for her son, First Lieutenant Royee Peles who was killed in Operation Protective Edge, to educational purposes and support for youth and soldiers. My oldest daughter Naama, who despite her serious injury which took place while training her soldiers as a squad commander in the IDF, insisted on returning to military service and won't let her medical challenges stop her from realizing her dreams.

When I grow up:
For many years I believed that being a lawyer in public service is my professional mission. Over the last few years I fell in love with the academic world and today it's clear that my place is in research and teaching.

If I was not a researcher, I would be: a lawyer

In short:
IPhone or Android? Android
Winter or summer? Spring and fall
Book or movie? Book
Night or morning? Morning
Pizza or hamburger? Tea or coffee? Beer or wine? Pizza, coffee and wine
Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad? Breaking Bad
An isolated cabin in nature or a pampering hotel in the city? Isolated cabin in nature

Meet other researchers who joined us this year »