Traditional Experiences with the Bedouin tribes of the Negev Highlands

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The Shepherd Community of the Negev Highlands

The History of the Shepherd Communities of the Negev Highlands

For centuries, the Negev Highlands region was divided among the various clans of the ‘Azazma tribe, each with its own territory. They lived in small communities consisting of several extended families. They lived modestly in a pre-consumerist society, off a combination of livestock raising, traditional dry farming, and desert plant gathering. The tribespeople conducted seasonal migration between the cool mountain area (today’s Mitzpe Ramon and northward) during the spring and summer, and the great wadis, or streambeds, to the south, where the weather is more pleasant during the autumn and winter.

Before the establishment of the State of Israel, the people of the Bedouin Azzama tribe lived in the Negev mountain area – a large and branching tribe, which was divided into 12 factions (sub-tribes). Of these, two clans reside in the Negev Highlands until today: the Ziadin and the Sarahin.

The Sarahin specialize in herding camels and raising them alongside the flock; while the Ziadin – in sheep breeding and traditional agriculture. In addition, the Al-Kashkhar and Al-Waj families from the Janabib tribe have also been living in the Negev Highlands for many years.

In the Negev Mountains, between Sde Boker and Mitzpe Ramon, there are a few families left, including about 1250 people in total, who preserve the ancient Bedouin way of life, which is now in danger of extinction. These families are spread out among the five communities living in tribal tents – Ramat Tziporim, Nahal Hava, Abde, Nahal Arikha. and Mitzpe Ramon.

To read about the customs and traditions of the Bedouin tribes in the Negev, click here

Negev Highlands Bedouin Communities