Enhance, Elevate and Enjoy your tourist experience in the Negev by exploring the hidden and truthful narratives of the forgotten Bedouin. The untold stories of the tribe are illustrated in my upcoming short documentary ‘Voiceless in the desert’, as I attempt to capture an intriguing yet underrepresented reality within Israeli society.

                                      Who are the Bedouins?

Ancient stories, folklore and myths pervade popular understandings of the nomadic tribesman, but what do we really know about the modern Bedouins?

The silhouette of the rider atop his camel, the flickering flames of the campfire, the steady beat of drum circles are simplified stereotypes of Bedouin life. All such traditional aspects are incorporated within the itineraries of commercial Bedouin tours in the Negev, promising the visitor an authentic insight into Bedouin culture. However, because tourists largely engage in old practices and activities, they can potentially overlook the reality and hardships facing the contemporary Bedouin community today.

Beneath this glamorous façade created by tourist structures lies the biggest Bedouin city in the world, Rahat, situated in the heart of Israel, the Negev.

Throughout my stay here, I sought to explore the lives of these minorities within minorities in Israeli society, giving  them the voice to correct misconceptions and express their challenges through my upcoming documentary ‘Voiceless in the Desert’. As expressed through this documentary as a summary of my personal journey in Rahat, I have reanalysed my pre-judgements about the Bedouin, which were limited to the conventional image of the desert dweller;  a wandering man or woman, who shifts from tent to tent.

On first impression of Rahat, the shift towards modernisation is striking. The society has largely neglected their primitive lifestyles, and are adjusting to urban living. Now, citizens are housed in permanent settlements within a wider infrastructure of roads, schools, health facilities and transportation. With this great transition from one way of life to another, the once traditional tribe are forever changed.

The population suffers from poverty, stress and crime, and is renown for its low socio-economic standing. The youngest generations are particularly at risk, as 60% of the population is comprised of people aged under eighteen. Out of the youth, 35% have dropped out of schools because of increasing pressures to begin work, with a  significantly small proportion receiving a high school education.

Problems persist into their later stages of life as young people have difficulties getting a place at university. Not only, does their financial position restrict their prospects, but they also face language and cultural barriers, as they are required to learn both Hebrew and English, in order to integrate themselves within the Israeli system.

These youngsters are often marginalised in their society.

                                     A New Dawn in the Negev

I’ve had the opportunity to meet Jamal Alkirnawi, the founder of the charitable organisation ‘A New Dawn in the Negev’. His mission is one of easing the challenges faced by the youth, by giving them ‘the tools and confidence they need to lead a positive change in the future’ in a period shaken by modernism.

‘A New Dawn’ aims to achieve this ideal through enriching projects and programmes, designed to offer a greater sense of identity among the youth and increase educational and employment prospects. These include various extra-curricular lessons in English, Photography, Music, and various vocational courses for youth at risk.

I have personally got to oversee some of the incredible projects set up by the organisation, with the opportunity to visit schools and the city, whilst interacting with a diversity of Bedouin in the process.

Young Women are given photography lessons to improve their technique and represent themselves within society.

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Young school children at a robotics class creating complex designs. Many of which have won awards.

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A young boy working from an early age at a food stall to help support the family.

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A group of 3 young boys walk onto our documentary film set at A New Dawn. I teach them how to take photos with the Iphone camera.

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The everlasting beauty of tradition

Within this newly modernised city, I saw the slight bit of tradition that still existed. I was invited to Salamh’s tent, surrounded by herds of camel, overlooking the masses of Bedouin houses.  During my visit, I saw the beauty of the Bedouin culture that wasn’t all lost. I was greeted with kindness and a legendary hospitality, while given sweet tea, as the host started making and playing a Rababa, a traditional Bedouin instrument.

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I put a human face to the Bedouin tribe. They are a people with the same goals and aspirations to us in the Western World, with limited chances and opportunities.

I met young girls aspiring to become doctors. Young boys aspiring to become teachers. An attempt to break down rigid gender barriers that have been in place for countless generations.

I experienced the new transformation of the society, but also the old traditions that still reside.

I saw the deprivations of the community but also their hope for change.

These are bright and talented individuals, living within an unfair system.

This is where the organisation A New Dawn becomes significant, in its role to create equality and a greater array of possibilities for the youth to make a difference.

                                              Get involved!

Partake in an alternative experience on your next visit. As opposed to simply visiting the same common sites of Israel in the likes of Masada and the Dead Sea, explore Rahat, a new but very important side of the country. By visiting the Bedouins, you can make a positive difference to the community.

Volunteer through A New Dawn programmes or teach the youth your speciality, whether it’s dancing, singing, or photography.

Learn about the struggles of the common Bedouin and their adjustment to modernity today. Spread their stories.

With Jamal Alkirnawi, let’s contribute in making progress within the society.

My visit here has certainly enabled me to see the reality of this unknown Bedouin culture, which I was previously unfamiliar with.

The biggest honour was to experience a society full of smiles in the face of adversity. A true inspiration to us all around the world to collectively maintain hope and work together in the most difficult periods of life.

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