Tea time in a Bedouin tent

Greetings from Yerucham, Israel! We are currently on a Shabbaton through Onward Israel, which is a weekend getaway with other student groups where we get to spend the Shabbat together in the middle of the Negev. This has definitely been a unique and worthwhile experience for my classmates and me.

As the city of Yerucham is 60% deserted land and 40% populated, we definitely feel like we have left the vibrant and busy streets of Tel-Aviv Yafo (even though it is only a short two-hour bus ride away). Onward Israel offered four experimental tracks for both Thursday and Friday; we chose tracks depending on what we thought would interest us most. Friday, I choose the track entitled “Women and the Periphery,” during which we met women from Yerucham who had very special stories to share with us.

One of the women that we met was from the Bedouin community. Bedouins are an Arab, desert-living people who typically live off very little income and resources. Despite their low economic status, they greet their visitors with immense hospitality, which we all felt as soon as we stepped inside the Bedouin tent. The tent was covered in bright color tapestries and flowery cushions for us to sit on. Our Bedouin host greeted us with a big smile and was already there preparing us tea (which happened to be delicious, if you were wondering).

After we were all situated and everybody got a cup of tea, she began to talk a little bit about herself and the Bedouin culture. She pointed out that she served the tea from the right to the left, and this was not an accidental gesture. In Bedouin culture—no matter the gender or status of the person—you always serve that way. It was very interesting to me how seriously this right-to-left-serving-culture was practiced, as it was something that I never take note of when my family serves guests at home. Our host told us that if somebody was served incorrectly according to Bedouin custom, that person can go complain to the Chief and get the host in serious trouble. This led us straight to the discussion of the unequal treatment of women in Bedouin communities, which has been an ongoing problem for these people for years.

Even though the Bedouin culture has been modernizing in recent times, women are still not viewed as equal to men and are stripped of many of their social rights. However, with the support of her husband, our host goes against some of the Bedouin societal norms. Traditionally, Bedouin women are not allowed to host men as guests unsupervised or go off to college to achieve a higher education—but our host has done just that. Hoping and fighting for the equal treatment of Bedouin females everywhere, she is an inspiration to all of us.

Stephanie Abadi is a sophomore at at the Olin Business School and a member of the first class in Olin’s Israel Summer Business Academy.

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