As Nomadism Ends: The Israeli Bedouin of the Negev

As Nomadism Ends: The Israeli Bedouin of the Negev

As Nomadism Ends: The Israeli Bedouin of the Negev

As Nomadism Ends: The Israeli Bedouin of the Negev

Synopsis

As pastoral nomads become settled, they face social, spatial, and ecological change in the shift from herding to farming, toward integration into the market economy. This book analyzes the socio-spatial changes that follow the end of nomadism, especially in the unique case of the Bedouin of the Negev. Focusing on the structural consequences of the shift to sedentarization, the author explores the related socio-spatial issues of the encounter with the modern, westernized world within a settlement frontier context: The adaptation of territorial behavior; the adoption of western demographic patterns; changes in the social status of individuals; integration into a system of social services; and the spatial conflict between state governments and pastoral nomads.

Excerpt

In the summer of 1971, a young Israeli military reserve officer was assigned for several weeks to southern Sinai. His orders were to conduct routine patrols of Bedouin territory there. During one of the patrols, the squad encountered a jeep with two people aboard -- an elderly Bedouin man, escorted by a young one. They were equipped with a jerrycan which carried an official Israeli military emblem. The patrol officer, suspecting that the jerrycan had been stolen from an army base, confiscated it and went away assured that he had taken the most appropriate action. Several days later the officer received a furious telephone call from the Israeli military governor of southern Sinai. It turned out that not only had the two Bedouin been deeply humiliated by the suspicion cast on them, but that the elder man was the Chief Sheikh of southern Sinai. The young officer was accused of causing a great scandal and severely damaging the delicate fabric of relationships with the Sinai Bedouin, established by the military authorities with considerable effort during four years of occupation. In order to pacify the sheikh, the officer was ordered to contact him at once, apologize, and organize a soulha (a customary Bedouin ceremony of conciliation).

The soulha took place several days later at a neutral location. The Chief Sheikh was apparently conciliated, things returned to normal, but the young and over-enthusiastic officer had learned a vivid lesson in intercultural relationships. That reserve officer, then an undergraduate geography student, is now the author of this book. Perhaps that embarrassing first encounter with Bedouin culture may explain why, about twelve years later, when on the faculty of a university situated in the heart of the Bedouin community in the Negev, I became involved in what turned out to be long-range research on this society in particular and pastoral nomadic societies in general.

My interest in the Negev Bedouin grew out of my broader interest in processes of change. More specifically, it originated in my dissatisfaction with the framework of spatial diffusion dynamics, my previous scientific specialty, which I tried unsuccessfully to apply to Bedouin society. I realized then the complexity and uniqueness of this society and grasped that a far deeper social understanding of pastoral nomadic societies and the Bedouin community was required. This resulted in my growing engage-

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