Few Friends in the Negev: In 1993, Dvorah Brous Was a Nice Jewish Girl from New Jersey Who Went to Israel to Discover Her Cultural Traditions. Today She's the Champion of the Disenfranchised Bedouin Arabs of the Negev Desert

By Twair, Pat McDonnell | The Middle East, November 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Few Friends in the Negev: In 1993, Dvorah Brous Was a Nice Jewish Girl from New Jersey Who Went to Israel to Discover Her Cultural Traditions. Today She's the Champion of the Disenfranchised Bedouin Arabs of the Negev Desert


Twair, Pat McDonnell, The Middle East


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

OVER THE 14 years, since she first arrived in Israel, Brous has learned to speak Hebrew and Arabic, earned two master s degrees and founded Bustan ("orchard" in Arabic), a grassroots organisation that assists Bedouins and brings their plight to the awareness of Westerners.

Brous doesn't idealise Bedouins, they are no better nor worse than any other group of people, she says. "But I wish affluent consumer cultures would stop long enough to examine how traditional people interact with the land and enrich it," Brous commented during a visit to Los Angeles. "The Bedouins know how to grow wheat, barley and lentils without water, fertiliser or pesticides. They are stewards of the land who can teach us how to connect with our environment."

Brous founded Bustan in 1999. "There are no overheads because we don't have an office," she says proudly. "We don't want to profit from Bedouin suffering." An e-mail newsletter is transmitted regularly from her Jerusalem apartment to more than 30,000 people worldwide. Some 30 Israeli, European and Bedouin volunteers work on carrying out Bustan projects.

Speaking to a largely Jewish audience in the Los Angeles home of a Bustan supporter, Brous recalled how she first became intrigued by the desert dwellers. She eschewed the black tents where Bedouin crafts were sold to tourists and approached the cement block houses in which the Bedouins of the coastal region make their homes. The American sat beside Bedouin women as they went about their daily chores such as preparing food for the family; friendships were established with communication largely conducted through sign language.

Travelling home from the Sinai through the Negev, Brous noticed shacks in areas devoid of so much as tumbleweed. She asked about the shanties and was told dismissively they were unrecognised Bedouin villages. Wanting to know more she began to visit the communities that reminded her of photos of American Indian reservations.

Her interactions with these outcasts produced an unexpected linguistic bonus. Today a fluent Arabic speaker whose accomplishment nonplussed Southern California Arabs who met her, Brous explains: "Slowly, slowly they taught me Arabic as we brewed tea, baked bread or went about the chores of communal life."

In her talk, Brous uses several maps to help her convey statistics. She explains that the Negev comprises 60% of Israel's land but only 2.5% has been made available to the Bedouins who once grazed their animals throughout the Negev, as well as the Sinai and Jordan.

The estimated 190,000 Bedouins of the Negev make up 27% of the population but they have been forced to live within the small area called the siyag ("fence"), a confined space containing the infamous Dimona nuclear plant and reactor, 19 agro and petrochemical factories, a toxic waste incinerator, an electric power plant, a prison, quarries, industrial and military zones and a military airport.

Raw sewage and toxic waste are dumped into the Hebron and Dimona rivers, the chief source of water for the Bedouins' sheep and goats. Meat and cheese from these flocks are regularly contaminated. Tin shack encampments are often in close proximity to incinerators burning toxic waste. Cancer risks for the inhabitants run as high as 65%.

An estimated 84,000 Bedouins have been resettled by the Israelis into seven government-planned townships.

"These impoverished townships have electricity, water and basic schools, but there are no libraries, post offices, recreation areas or trash pick-up facilities," Brous confirms, "and there's no space to grow crops or livestock. The inevitable outcome is high unemployment, drug use and crime.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Few Friends in the Negev: In 1993, Dvorah Brous Was a Nice Jewish Girl from New Jersey Who Went to Israel to Discover Her Cultural Traditions. Today She's the Champion of the Disenfranchised Bedouin Arabs of the Negev Desert
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?