Bedouin Women at the Crossroads
Dr. Ruth Westheimer
Dramatic events in the Middle East are frequently in today’s headlines. Behind those headlines, however, a quiet revolution is taking place that may reshape that volatile part of the world in fundamental ways. The Bedouin people of Palestine and Israel represent one of the most traditional cultures in that area. Only a generation ago, they were nomads wandering the Negev Desert on camels, migrating with their herds of sheep and moving households with the seasons. Is a polygamous, male-dominated society, women have had little control over the course of their own lives and destiny. This is beginning to change.
For millennia, Bedouin culture remained essentially unchanged, until several decades ago when the Israeli government demanded that they leave behind their nomadic ways and settle down in state-sanctioned townships. Adapting to new conditions has brought numerous changes for a population accustomed to freedom in the desert. One such challenge is the result of the Bedouin’s increased contact with Western-oriented Israeli society, leading many young women to look beyond the constraints of traditional culture to seek greater independence and equality with men.
Dr. Ruth Westheimer and Gil Sedan set out to discover how those changes have affected Bedouin society and to meet the women who have courageously followed their own path. Through personal stories and encounters, Shifting Sands
shows how Bedouin men and women have dealt with their changing society and how the clash between modernity and tradition leads to turmoil, as well as to social and individual transformation. The authors also offer glimpses of how this desert revolution may change attitudes and interactions among the Arab and Jewish peoples of Israel.