להכיר את הלא מוכר: Recognising the unrecognised
I was lucky to have a window to the world of Bedouin society the other week, as part of a phototrip with my favourite school of photography Zilum Ba’am. Hands down the best photography school ever - they are indy and wild and break rules and dont take themselves too seriously (הקיצור מגניבים). Love them.
I took many more pictures but have decided not to post up-close images of the people who we met. There is nothing I love more than the opportunity to capture people and moments and lives, but I have very conflicted feelings about actually doing it - especially when it comes to kids - and then sharing the photos online. I will not post close-up pictures of other people’s children on my blog/fb/other without their very clear permission or understanding of my intention. I will, though, pass the images on to their families so that they can enjoy their very gorgeous children. And I had a good - and rewarding - time showing the kids how to use the camera - there was one kid who took to the camera like a fish to water.
The trip was coordinated by Zilum Ba’am and Bustan, an NGO promoting sustainability and capacity building in the Negev’s Bedouin communities. Approximately 180,000 Bedouin live in the Negev, where they are scattered across “recognised and unrecognised” villages. They are amongst the most disadvantaged populations in Israel, and this is reflected in their poor socioeconomic and health status and the glaring absence of adequate economic and social infrastructure in their settlements. I couldn’t help but notice some parallels between their story and the story of Indigenous Australia, certainly as the current situation stands. On the positive side: proud cultures, tight knit family structures, true attempts at grassroots social and economic development, fostering community leadership. Yet on the other side of the coin: contested lands (to the point of forcible evictions and demolitions), severe exclusion and disadvantage, systemic state and social discrimination, repression of women (though educational opportunities are increasingly opening up to them), the pressures of modernity on a traditional way of life, and more.
There is heaps of information available online so I wont give a history lesson here but it’s all very fascinating and there are great organisations trying to enable real changes on the ground - Bustan, for one, is focusing their energy on building capacity in Qasr-a-Sir with an eco-khan, a 5-month permaNegev program for volunteers (2012), women’s entrepreneurship program, and more.
We ate a simple and delcious lunch at Bat Hamidbar farm in Tel Sheva, home to the Bat Hamidbar cosmetics range. All products - lotions, soaps, oils - are 100% natural and are formulated according to time-honoured Bedouin knowledge about the remediative and restorative properties of indigenous herbs and plants. You can read more about the products and the company’s founder, Mariam, here and you can organise a visit there too (her contact details appear on that page). Or organise a tour with Bustan, to have your eyes and your minds opened to a whole recognised-unrecognised world.