Twenty-three-year-old Lian Najami last month became the first-ever Israeli Arab Muslim woman to win a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. (Yotam Vaknin was the other Rhodes Scholarship winner.)
The world-renowned honor places young Najami among the planet’s highest academics.
Najami, a resident of Haifa, has been a featured speaker at the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit EMEA (in Israel), at events in Germany organized by Israel’s Embassy, and at U.S. Ivy League campuses such as Harvard and Brown Universities. She has also been a Lantos Congressional Fellow at the U.S. Senate, and listed as one of the “Innovation Women” speakers.
A relentless optimist, Najami’s message to all is that Israeli Arabs can succeed in the Jewish State. She says she is living proof, and that even with a degenerative neurological disorder, her social worker gave her the help and confidence she needed to be able to take full advantage of the great education she had.
The young Rhodes scholar — fluent in five languages – Hebrew, Arabic, English, German and Spanish – graduated the University of Haifa in 2016 with a major in political science and international affairs. Her first childhood girl friend was Jewish.
And as an Israeli Arab, Najami advocates against the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, warning that it hurts Israeli Arabs as much as Jews.
Najami has told reporters that when she first acquired her chronic illness at age 12, she had been a very active young girl – and then suddenly, she was unable to maintain those activities. But rather than play the victim she decided to look ahead and focus on the future.
And so it is with her attitude about Israel. “How do we advance from here?” she tells reporters.