Thursday, 11 March 2010

Meeting the Bedouins

I had an early start to join Clarence and Joan Musgrave & the visiting Guild group as they visited projects supported by the NGO, Rabbis for Human Rights, among the Bedouin of the Negev, the large desert region in the south of the country (turned green with the rain). In the morning we visited a Bedouin village, where we heard of the work of the Pre-Military Academy, which takes young people who have just completed school for a 10 month stint before they start their army service. Their presence seems to have made some difference in the village, in that some facilities had been provided and some women have been learning Hebrew, so they can communicate (though how many of the young people learned any Arabic is another matter), and the women could now read, for example, health pamphlets (which should have been provided in Arabic anyway, as an official language, but which rarely are). The young people from the Academy came from privileged backgrounds in the Centre of the country -unfortunately there didn’t seem to be any Arabs on the programme, but then not many Arabs do military service - and their interaction with the Bedouin had obviously had an impact on them, and I could see that they had had a positive mind-shift, appreciating more about minorities in Israel.

The men in the group were taken round the local primary school. The headteacher bemoaned the lack of resources, but it seemed a lot better to me than many schools in Zambia, so it is all relative. The Head himself was a local Bedouin, but most of the teachers seemed to come from the Arab communities in the Galilee, as few of the Bedouins seem to go in for teaching. Again young people from the ‘Academy’ teach some courses, and thus present a different view of Jewish Israelis to the Bedouin pupils, who are more likely to associate Israelis negatively with the police or army. I was certainly impressed by the young man who took us round and felt that, despite some initial reservations, that the programme was a positive one.

What the Bedouin are associated with is their hospitality, and the morning finished with a lunch of rice, potato and chicken from a communal dish.

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