Introduction to the Bedouins of Israel

An introductory UK Task Force peula on Bedouin Arab citizens of Israel

Group size: 10-30
Age range: 14-18 year olds
Time: 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes
Madrichim Needed: 5 or more


  1. To gain an understanding of the history of the Bedouin population and their present reality inside Israel
  2. To explore the culture of the Bedouin population
  3. To understand the issues these Arab citizens of Israel face

Trigger (20 minutes)

  • Chanichim will be split into 4 groups through playing an alternative fruit salad game where they will be given the name of an area Bedouins have historically resided eg Egypt, the Negev, Transjordan and the Arabian desert.
  • The room will be set up in walkway format which the chanichim will be led by leaders through to learn more about the Bedouin.
  • There will be several points in the walkway where they will pick up a fun fact card (with info about Bedouins) that they must keep until the end.
  • They will also meet 3 members of the Bedouin population (man from the past, person from the present, a female member of Bedouin society), and a member of the Israeli government. Each person they meet will speak to them about the situation at the given time in history and their views about the future for the Bedouin population.
  • The chanichim will write down key info, facts and figures and store the information until the end of the walkways. This gives them the opportunity to learn about the population before the next task.
  • After the walkways they should go through what they have learnt with their group.

Main (30 minutes)

  • Now the chanichim have learnt about the Bedouin people they have a chance to show off their skills. They will pick a name for their team and a buzzer sound.
  • Using the info they have gathered in the trigger they must answer questions through the format of Jeopardy where they choose how difficult a question they wish to answer to gain points. They alternate with the other 3 teams as to who picks the difficult of the question. The team who picks can answer first but if they don't know the answer another team can buzz in to try and gain the extra points. The team with the most points at the end wins.

Bedouin Jeopardy

Facts and Figures History Culture Issues
400 400 400 400
300 300 300 300
200 200 200 200
100 100 100 100
Facts and Figures
  • 100 - What religion are the Bedouin population? Muslim (Bonus: 50 points) What branch of Islam? Sunni
  • 200 - How many Bedouins live in Israel today? Over 200,000 in Negev alone and 60,000 in Northern Israel
  • 300 - What percentage of Bedouin live below the poverty line? 71.5% in 2007
  • 400 - How many dunams of land do Bedouin reside on in the Negev? 260,000 dunams
  • 100 - Where is the word Bedouin derived from? Arabic word for desert (Bonus: 50 points for why - Bedouins traditionally reside in the desert)
  • 200 - What are Bedouins traditionally know for being (Clue - it's about their relationship to the land)? Nomadic (Bedouins move around based on cultivation opportunities in a region)
  • 300 - Name somewhere Bedouins lived before migrating to Israel? Egypt, Jordan, and the Arabian desert
  • 400 - How many Bedouins lived in Israel before 1948? Approximately 90,000
  • 100 - What drink are Bedouins famous for having? Tea
  • 200 - What human quality are Bedouins known for being? Hospitable
  • 300 - What is the headdress of a Bedouin called? Kafir
  • 400 - What are two instruments traditionally used by Bedouin? Rababa and Shabbaba
  • 100 - Why are Bedouins in dispute with the Israeli government? Land issues
  • 200 - What is the definition of an unrecognised village? A village that is not officially recognised as a legal community in Israel and thus has no access to basic infrastructure such as water and electricity.
  • 300 - Name one unrecognised village? Example: Al-Arakib, Um al-Hiran, Atir, Sa'wah, A-Sir
  • 400 - Name one of the government plans to deal with the Bedouin issue? Prawer plan, Goldberg report, Begin plan

Sikkum (30 minutes)

Each team will have 15 minutes to prepare a presentation on one of the given topics eg figures, history, culture and issues either in the format of a play, song, newspaper article, poster etc about what they have learnt about Bedouins.
They will have a 2 minute time limit to do their presentation.

Resource List

  • Jeopardy board
  • Materials to set up walkways
  • Materials for presentation
  • Facts for speakers during walkway exercise
  • Fun fact cards
  • Pens and paper to write down facts

Fact Files for Characters

Noora al-Sanea (49) - mother of 3, never went to university
In terms of dress, I am covered completely, except for my eyes, although more modern Bedouin women may be seen with only a hijab instead of a full burka. We are not allowed to talk to boys unless they are related or from their tribe.

If a girl speaks to a strange man, or is seen doing something like that, she brings shame on her family or tribe and this weakens their standing in Bedouin society. Thus, our behaviour is closely watched and closely proscribed by Bedouin honour codes.

Back in the 1980s, many Negev Bedouin girls would be taken out of school at the age of 12 to help their mothers at home. By puberty, many families who had not done so already removed their daughters from school. Although this still happens, the numbers finishing school and going on to university are now in their hundreds. For example, in 2007 almost 250 Bedouin women were on a degree or teacher-training course.

I never received the opportunity to study at university, there are more opportunities for this to happen now and Bedouin society has begun adapting to modern thinking about a women's right to education, although it is still at her father's discretion.
Zayed al-Nuaim (37) father of 5, desert dwelling shepherd
We are often known as a hospitable set of people, offering tea to anyone who visits our home. We would wear a kafir (headdress) as part of our traditional clothing, and play instruments such as the rababa and shabbaba.

The Bedouin who live in the desert can live in tents, which used to be made out of black goat hair that the women would weave. It was strong, and could survive the harsh conditions of the weather out here, the sun and the sand storms and the cold in winter.

Most of the Negev Bedouin tribes migrated from the Arabian Desert, Transjordan, Egypt, and the Sinai from the 18th Century onwards and were the only inhabitants of the Negev area until the mid-20th Century.

Most people think that we're still nomadic, but our pastoral way of life only necessitated some seasonal movement since we came to this land; and our travel centred around historic villages that were organised according to a traditional system of individual and collective land ownership, grazing rights and access to water.

The majority of the Bedouin are Sunni Muslims. Bedouin culture and customs vary with each tribe and include a well-defined value system of strict honour codes that distribute justice within the community. This is what distinguishes us from the wider Arab population within Israel.
Abduallah Khawalid (46), father of 4, works for IDF, his children all go to school including the girls and his eldest girl is at university studying medicine
The Bedouin in general are an impoverished people; in fact they are the poorest in Israel. Bedouin men seem to find jobs in Jewish towns; in security, the military, construction and other menial jobs. I serve in the IDF. My main work is as interpreter and tracker, because I know the desert very well.

Our lives are in transition now - we are no longer nomads traveling across the desert, but instead we are becoming settled in permanent dwellings and we have to adapt to Israel's modern economy. Although I live in Rahat, a government planned town, my brothers do not want to leave their village, even though it is not recognised as a legal settlement by the government. This means that they don't have access to amenities, like electricity, running water and sewage; and the homes that they have built out of cement are slated for demolition by the Israeli authorities.

Israel also outlawed the black goat in order to eliminate our nomadism, so now Bedouin tents are made of tarps and burlap bags stretched across boards, which do not always hold up under strong winds and are less safe for families.

Fun Facts Cards

  1. The Negev Bedouin have one of the highest natural growth rates in the world, 4.2% in 2011. The average Bedouin woman has nine children. This means that the population doubles once every 18 years. The Israel Land Administration projects that the Negev Bedouin population will reach 300,000 by 2020.
  2. At the end of 2011, 201,000 Bedouin lived in the Negev, accounting for approximately between one quarter and one fifth of the population in the region. In addition, 60,000 Bedouin live in the Galilee and close to 10,000 in central Israel.
  3. Within a single generation, since the Compulsory Education Law came into effect in 1949, illiteracy was reduced from 95% to 25%.
  4. Bedouin settlements in the Negev are traditionally characterised by the highest poverty rates in Israel. In 2007, 71.5% of Bedouin households were under the poverty line, compared to 54.5% and 16.2% in the Arab and Jewish sectors, respectively.
  5. Bedouin currently live on about 260,000 dunams of land or about 2% of the overall territory of the Negev.
  6. The total land area claimed by the Bedouin is estimated at 5.4% of the total territory in the Negev, or 775,863 dunams.
  7. Israeli citizenship was granted to the Bedouin in 1954.
  8. The majority of the Bedouin are Sunni Muslims.
  9. In 2011, 492 Bedouin volunteered to military service.
  10. The term "Bedouin" derives from the Arabic word "desert" and refers to tribes of traditionally pastoral desert-dwelling Arabs. Usually came from Egypt, Jordan and the Arabian Desert.