Joelle at the Negev

by Joelle

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I don’t know more what, maybe some desert. I think. After all it’s Passover and at what other spot on Earth should I be at this time to connect my ancestor Moses for at least the next 40 years of my life? In the desert, of course. I chose to pack, without really talking too much with anyone about where I intend to stay, because you know it’s always a problem giving explanations.

From Tel Aviv train station I arrive at Beersheba where Haim of Negevjeep is waiting in the oldest Range Rover I have seen in Israel. With a nice Shalom (peace; hello) smile in his lips, Haim asks us if we are okay, and tells us if we do not want to miss the sunset dinner in the area of Sheegg, we’d better hurry up.

On the way to the Ramon Crater, Haim explains that he was a former army general and chose to be a desert guide because the desert is his life and humans are boring. If I am interested for my blog, he can show me all the thousands of different birds, wolves and hyenas that pass through the desert night by moonlight.

I kindly thank him for his nice invitation but I explain him that I prefer to check in with tribes and Bedouin lifestyles and those of birds, wolves and hyenas are not specifically the primary point of interest of my blog.

He seems to understand, and when I ask him some information about the life of the desert tribes, like a good Israeli he answers with the following question:  “Do you want to know ALL the story or just after Christ?”

Although it is dwarfed both by the Jordanian Desert and the Sinai Desert, the Negev desert is a relatively small area with a great deal to offer particularly to first time desert travelers, steeped in history and home to a host of geological wonders. We are on the way to the ancient Nabatean city ‘Ovdat’ where the cliffs of the Negev plateau are dramatically intercepted by the sandy Arava valley.

Crossing the Negev Desert, he says, are some of the most ancient trade routes in history, including the Spice and Perfume Route. Apparently we are following in the tracks of the intrepid Nabatean merchants who endeavored to cross this haunting and beautiful land, bearing treasures from Arabia and the East to the nobility of Europe. Nice… but I am hungry.


Haim announces his surprise. Dinner at sunset tonight is taking place at the Bedouin’s tent. We are told that we will eat with our hands and “if you want, Yael, you can ask all the questions you want, Zjimeaa is expecting you, and moreover I told them who you are, and they are exited to see you.” Here it is, the Jewish Yael girl staying at a Muslim Bedouin tent for the night. (I wonder about my mother’s opinion there in chic Brussels!)

As soon as we arrive, the patriarch invites us to sit, pouring a very sweet tea into a small transparent glass to welcome us. He explains that normally he should have four wives but at his age it’s a little too much to handle so he kept himself responsible for only one. His wife, by the way, is now in the kitchen with his daughter Yasmina preparing our meal. Suddenly I hear a very bright sound of a sheep BEEP from the Bedouin Ahmad shepherd back next to a tiny generator, and thrilled like a child I jump to have a closer look at the sheep; after all I am just an urban New York-São Paulo-Milan city girl and it’s not everyday that I get to see a sheep inside a Bedouin tent right in the middle of the Negev desert). The sheep mirage is broken by a loud “ALO” coming from the Bedouin’s lips — a small pause — we all realize silent and shocked that the sheep’s sound was nothing more. nothing less than the Bedouin’s Nokia ring tone! We sometimes forget that we are in Israel, the land of high technology and even a Bedouin would get to Tel Aviv not on his camel but in his truck to download his favorite ring tone obviously making sure he keeps his identity intact, right?

Talking about identity, the reason why I picked up this small expedition was, once more, to check really where I was coming from, more clearly about my origins. Oriental and liberated as I could be, I went to the kitchen with the women of the family to help prepare the Pita (Arabic bread) and evening meal called Magluba (or to be honest, at least learn how to make it), while the men where discussing among themselves (I wanted to know where I could find Bedouin artifacts for the e-commerce of my website) the importance of women working at home so that revolution could be avoided and replaced by evolution (the bedouin’s words) in the rules and centennial traditions of the desert tribes, thus preserving the family values and habits.

I then reflect in a pause, while handing the yeast to little Jasmine daughter, what my life could be or could have been if I had to prepare the Pita bread and the meal for my man and children under a Negev sun…

The feeling I certainly got is one of immense peace and protection from the outside world found in this amazing small community preserving its identity in harmony with the land and its government.

Salaam to you Ahmad, the Bedouin and thank you for the opportunity of reminding me deeply inside of my soul who I really am, and confront my devotional needs towards my future master.

Mercan Dede, NAR-I CEM, is my favorite Turkish Sufi music composer of Sufi mp3 available for you to travel with me along this magic of the Negev Desert.

Allah Maacon (May Allah be with you)

In the Negev there are about 100000 Bedouins. 40% 40000 live in unrecognized villages in tent or hats like the one we visited. With average family size of 8-9, it about 5000 families.

Zman Midbar is a private place with a holistic view of life in the desert…
The Moonlight walk is an unusual experience — walking in Nahal Havarim near Midreshet Ben Gurion. The landscape around is composed of caly rock and Chalk — both very bright.  In a full moon the night hike gives you special feeling of being connected with the desert…

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