The Bedouins of Israel
Updated: May 2
The Bedouins have a rich and unique tribal culture unlike any other in Israel. Their hospitality and ability to inhabit the desert make them distinct from other groups. What is the story of the Bedouins in Israel?
Bedouins are a nomadic Arab group that has been living in the desert since before the State of Israel was established. They herd goats, sheep, and livestock for food, dairy, and wool products for clothing. When Israel finally become a state, many Bedouins moved to Gaza. During the Independence Day War in particular there was a mass movement to the Gaza Strip, but some Bedouins did stay in Israel and continued on with their lives. Now, the majority are concentrated in the Negev Desert.
Historically, there are very few Bedouin settlements. There is now the city of Rahat, which was established in 1971. As of 2018, Rahat has some 70,000 people. Rahat is a neat place to go for authentic food, especially during Ramadan. There are a lot of restaurants, businesses, and mosques there. Polygamy is common in Bedouin culture, and currently, there is a very young population in Rahat, with nearly half the residents under 18. It’s common that Bedouin men have dozens of children with multiple wives.
Bedouins have served in the IDF since Israel was established. Arabs in Israel are exempt from service, but they can still volunteer to join. They even have a desert-scouting unit.
There are about 450-500 Bedouin soldiers that join in a year, and the army represents a great opportunity. It’s the chance to improve skills and education that often is lacking in Bedouin communities.
Bedouin communities are known for their immense hospitality. In desert life, no visitor is sent away. All travelers are welcomed to the tent. You can sit around a blazing fire, enjoy the twinkling stars, and sip tea or coffee!
Have you ever visited a Bedouin tent? There are lots of tour opportunities to experience this incredible culture!