Traditional Experiences with the Bedouin tribes of the Negev Highlands

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Nahal Hava Community (Al-Afdai)

Every extended family lives in a separate complex while maintaining a respectable distance from the neighboring extended family and family autonomy. Some residents have a rich history of serving in the army and rescuing hikers in the desert.

The community has about 180 people in 30 nuclear families who try to graze sheep and grow fruit trees near their residences. Most families still depend on raising sheep and have herds of 80, 100, and even 200 animals.

In the late 1970s, the “Green Police” began to confiscate herds of goats, including those of families from the Sarahin tribe whose grazing areas were in Nahal Tzin and the Sde Boker plane. Inspectors from the Green Police ordered the families to move and settle in the area of Al-Apdai near the route of old Highway 40. With the construction of the new Highway 40 route, they remained in the area hemmed in between the new and the old road.

Because the Al-Afdai site was already part of the territories where the Sarakhins had grazed their flocks and lived in the past, the families, many of whose herds were also confiscated, agreed to settle here. This is how “Nahal Hava” became a kind of herders’ village and the permanent home of several families from the Sarakhin tribe, among them Abu Beliya, Khrenik, Sajira, Zenon, and Al Ramak. During the past 30 years, the Nahal Hava settlement has expanded. The residents have developed mutual relations of daily cooperation in almost every field and established marital ties, forming a cohesive community.

Salem Abu-Baliya, a resident of the Nahal Hava community and a well known tracker & tour guide (photo: Daniel Bar)

During the “Izbe” period (Izbe is a temporary nomadic compound in the heart of the desert) – the spring period when the goats give birth, and the herd feeds on the natural pasture, many of the residents go out with their flocks to their grazing areas. Family members carry food, water, and various supplies for them. They go out for several months to the grazing areas shared by all the families living on the Negev Highlands (Sarakhin, Janabib, and Zayadin). However, they report that the Green Police and other enforcement authorities limit their freedom and see them as a disturbance without regard for their needs.

“Our women do not make cheese or butter, only because of the persecutions of the Green Police. There is no peace of mind; the family constantly fears the patrol’s inspectors coming to the area. They will expel them from the pasture because it is a nature reserve or a future construction project where grazing is not allowed.”

Similar to the community that lives in Abde, the Nahal Hava community has also created a local identity over the years alongside the tribal one. They all consider their current residence, which they were transferred to by the state under various circumstances many years ago, as their only home. Cooperation and spending time together characterize the relationships within the community. Young married people invite the members of the community (the men of the community) with an open invitation and spend an evening from time to time by a campfire.

At the same time, each extended family lives in a separate compound while maintaining a respectable distance from the neighboring extended family, maintaining family autonomy. Some of the local residents have a rich history of serving in the army and rescuing strays in the desert.

Recently, they began to integrate into the tourism industry as well. Their dream is to establish a school for explorers in the desert. In the meantime, they hold traditional coffee and pita baking workshops, tell about their customs and the desert, and provide services to those walking the Israel Trail that passes close to their settlement by offering rides and burying water at various landmarks, selling pita bread, etc.

Source: Document from the Shepherds’ Shelters in the Negev Mountains by “Bimkom” NGO