Since the word “Bedouin” comes from the Arabic word for desert, people tend more readily to picture Israel’s Bedouin in the arid south, the Negev, than in the green and well-watered north. But some 30% of Israel’s over 200,000 Bedouin citizens do live in Galilee. Especially in this region, most Bedouin no longer lead the wandering shepherd’s life of the old days. But their traditions are going strong, as you’ll discover when you experience their culture at a Bedouin hospitality tent in the north.
Despite your lush surroundings, the idea of Bedouin hospitality was born in the harsh conditions of the desert, as your host will explain. You’ll hear the story of Bedouin culture as you sit in a woven goat-hair tent, whether to drink sage tea or cardamom coffee or stay for an entire meal and, at some sites, even sleep in the tent. Among authentic northern Bedouin dishes are seasonal vegetables like mallows and endives. Along with other plants that served as folk remedies, shepherdesses would gather these greens on the hillsides as they pastured the flock (and their grandmothers still do).
Some Galilee Bedouin migrated over the centuries from as far away as North Africa, and even Yemen. That is the origin of the Shibli tribe, who now live in their own town of some 4,000, called –– of course – Shibli, on the slopes of biblical Mount Tabor. One Shibli family that welcomes visitors specializes in hosting pre-wedding henna ceremonies for their Yemenite Jewish cousins, using this traditional plant extract to draw intricate designs on the hands of the bride and female guests. Some Bedouin hospitality sites also maintain bed-and-breakfast accommodations in cabins, which you can use as a base for several days’ sightseeing in this beautiful and heritage-rich region.