In this week’s documentary segment linked to YouTube, Dr. Fleming and Hannaniah briefly refer to the Bedouin. Who are they? What are they currently like? What were they like even just 100 years ago?
According to Wikipedia, the Bedouin are “a grouping of nomadic Arab peoples who have historically inhabited the desert regions in North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, and the Levant.” They were semi-nomads at least until recently in Israel. This means they’d wander with their goats and sheep to find weeds in the arid parts, living in mobile goat-hair tents. Gradually during the last 100 years or so, modernization has been stealing away their ancient traditions bit by bit. The Israeli government has also been settling many of them.
I learned a little about these peoples just by being in Israel and having Dr. Fleming point them out as we drove by in the arid parts of Israel. They also showed us a goat-hair tent at the Biblical Resources Center. This center used to display different archaeological replicas in Jerusalem, and now they’ve relocated to Atlanta, Georgia. However, I’ve been learning a lot more about the Bedouin’s cultural institutions, and about Israel’s background, by reading Ancient Israel, Its Life and Institutions, by Roland De Vaux. Now, different laws in the Old Testament make more sense to me, because Israel’s roots were also semi-nomadic. What we’re used to in the West is quite different.
Nomads must rely on the tribe for protection, policing, etc., since they’re extremely spread apart. Their isolation presents a totally different set of problems, challenges, and solutions. Bedouin are losing their reliance on the tribe as they’re settling in Palestine. Instead, the clan has gained importance, and particularly the family units. This happened to ancient Israel during the time of Judges, as well.
Clans would start to specialize in different areas of expertise, based on location and available resources. Their need for the cities of refuge grew out of their old methods of enforcing the law because they were settling. The rich and poor classes emerged as soon as their fortunes became based on working the land. But this also intensified with the installation of kings, who employed court officials and an army.
The same problems that fuel the conflict between the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Jews in Israel fuel the controversy surrounding the Bedouins today. Being Arabs, the Bedouins also feel their homes are being taken from them. There are probably some who actually like the effects of modernization and what the government offers by settling them. But from what I read on the web, most sound like they have an ax to grind.
Like other peoples, governments, and cultures, minorities are always either being neglected or even given more privileges because they are a minority. The dilemma is always the same: what’s fair? And how can we afford to grant them this or that? “Hemming in” these semi-nomads makes them feel the Israeli government “owes them.” So many more Bedouin still aren’t settled. But the more you give, the more demanding the takers can be. The more you try to please, the more the receivers can take things for granted and even hate, despite all you do.
I’m not justifying the Jews or intending to make the Arabs and/or the Bedouins look bad. I’m just displaying our sinful human tendencies and raising the need for forgiveness and healing. How can we heal if we won’t move past the injustices we’ve suffered? We must commit to forgiving or remain victims not of the injustices, but of our own sinful responses.
Are you still such a victim?
The above picture was a free stock picture available online from a long time ago, and I can’t find where I got it now.