The Bedouin come from a variety of origins, which means that this colorful and ancient community offers many nuances waiting to be discovered.
They are like a tree, with deep roots in their desert past (the word Bedouin comes from the Arabic word badu, which means desert) and its crown in modern life, seeking to live in both worlds.
The majority of Bedouin in Israel, approximately 160,000, live in the Negev, with another 70,000 in Galilee. About half of Israel’s Bedouin originate in tribes that emerged from the Arabian Desert in the seventh century CE. They eventually migrated north to the Negev by way of the Sinai Peninsula, or to the Galilee by way of Iraq and Syria. The other half are divided into two groups: farmers from Egypt and Sinai who came north during later Turkish times, and tribes people from Sudan who arrived in the 19th century as slaves.
The Bedouin livelihood once depended entirely on moving their flocks through the desert from well to well and from pasture to pasture. Now, most have settled down permanently. However among the elements of Bedouin culture still powerfully evident from those days are hospitality and ties of family, tribe and confederation. These elements also come to the fore in the biblical stories of the patriarchs and the matriarchs, making the experience of Bedouin culture a Bible lesson as well.
Meet the Bedouin in Israel and learn more about their culture then and now by contacting the following organizations: