The best of the Beduin

Irit Shatil wants to improve our woeful lack of knowledge through a celebration of Beduin culture.

beduin child 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
beduin child 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
How much do most Israelis know about the country's Beduin population? Irit Shatil wants to improve our woeful lack of knowledge through a celebration of Beduin culture at next weekend's Beduin Love Song Festival. The event will take place November 11 and 12 in the Ran Forest in Arad Park. While festival organizer Irit Shatil recognizes concerns that Beduin culture may be misrepresented at an event with a non-Beduin coordinator, she says the festival will give an authentic view of Beduin life. "This is the genuine article," she declares. "Most of the workshops and other events will be run by Beduin themselves. This is an opportunity for all Israelis to get to know the beauty and richness of Beduin culture." Shatil believes the festival may even have an educational impact on Beduin participants. About five years ago, political controversy ensued after members of the Beduin Azazme tribe tried to rejoin their relatives in Israel after staying in Sinai following Israel's withdrawal from the area in 1982. The incident drew the attention of the media and public to the lot of Beduin who have willingly relocated or who have been moved to urban settlements and from their traditional way of life. Shatil says she hopes the festival will rekindle Beduin's interest in their own heritage. "One Beduin told me that if he wants his kids to see what a camel looks like, he takes them to the zoo," she said "That's really sad. We want to redress that." Festival-goers will have a wonderful opportunity to catch sight of the camel at a number of camel races being staged during the event. There will also be similar events with majestic Arabian horses. The workshops roster includes a session about the use of different herbs, stones and charms in healing. Then, for those looking to have their olfactory senses and taste buds stimulated, there will be cooking workshops at which participants can learn to bake pita in the ground and discover what traditional Beduin dishes like hamida, jerisha and joras are. Of course, music and storytelling are an integral part of Beduin culture, and they will be well represented. There will also be a performance by Rababa-Tor, an intriguing cross-cultural group of musicians from Kibbutz Lahav and the Beduin towns of Rahat and Kseifeh. The band will play a wide ranging mix of music including Beduin and Hassidic material, as well as Israeli folk. Performers will make use of both traditional and modern instruments. Visitors looking to gain some insight into Beduin society would do well to drop by the Beduin law court, where sheikhs, tribal heads and other senior members of Beduin society will discuss some of the intricacies of their judicial system, looking at issues such as theft, treatment of women, property boundaries and the well-known Beduin practice of sulha (reconciliation). The workshop schedule also deals with elements of Beduin culture including traditional dress, weaving, embroidery and children's care. A women's circle and an instrument building session will also be held. Accommodation will be available for NIS 20 per mattress in nearby Beduin tents. The price of the sleepover includes free entry to the festival site on the second day. Other overnight facilities are on offer in more permanent structures in Arad, a 10-minute drive away. Some of the events are free, entry to the site is NIS 10, and most workshops cost just NIS 5. For more information, call (08) 995-1706 or go to
More about:Rahat, Arad, Israel