Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bedowin Experience

During our Tiyyul to the Aravah we stopped and met with a Bedowin woman who talked to us about her life and experiences living in Israel. Since she isn't affected by Israel in any way, she only had positive things to say. She even pointed out that Israel has given her so much, what right does she have to complain. This seemed to surprise some of the people in my group because they had just heard a completely different narrative from a different group of Bedowin people closer to Jerusalem.

We heard about Salima's life, her aspirations and a lot about education.

Some of the striking things to take away from the discussion was that she will not tell her kids to either join or not join the Israeli Army, but she would prefer them to do National Service. She did not like the idea of her kids being put in a position where they may need to kill other Muslims.

She also expressed a hope that her daughters could grow up and continue to learn, especially Hebrew. It is really hard for them to work in Israeli society without knowing Hebrew. Salima had a very tough time trying to learn Hebrew and achieve education because her society doesn't see it as important, especially for women.

While we were talking with her, her husband came into the building and served us tea. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but let me paint a picture here for a second. The typical, traditional Bedowin society does not want a woman to be educated at all. The fact that she was sitting with a large group of foreigners and having a conversation in Hebrew was a special circumstance and is fairly rare.

Even more incredible was the fact that her husband came in and served us. During our conversation she told us how lucky she is to have a husband that allows that to happen. He not only is okay with what she does, but supports her doing so.

The entire time we were there, I sat and thought about the"Bedowin" group we met on Taglit. The version and story we are presented in that encounter is incredibly fake. It's a show! For an example, the best I can think of is the Wild West shows you can find all over South Dakota in the Bad Lands. It is a very glorified version of their life and doesn't accurately portray what they are really like.

I don't think we got the "real" Bedowin experience talking to Salima in her "reception hall tent". But looking at the surrounding camp, it was a very different picture than the one I saw on Taglit.

This experience was awesome though. It's good to know that there are people working towards an understanding between different groups of people. It further affirms that in order to exist together, people need to sit down with each other and talk. Not judge, leave loaded language at the door. Have a real conversation. Learn about the other person's aspirations. Understand their history. Ideally this would involve sharing cultures as well. This instance, we shared tea.

Bedowin tea is incredible. Before I come home I want to find out what herbs they use for brewing. I believe they add a bunch of sugar to the mixture too.

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