Last week, I ate with Bedouins in the Negev Desert. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d say.
Bedouins are members of nomadic Arab tribes who live in the desert. In Israel, many live in the Negev in makeshift homes – often tents or shipping containers. They live without electricity or running water. We were invited to come to a Bedouin community, where Rabbi Eckstein listened to prominent leaders about their various needs – and there are many, as poverty is widespread in the Bedouin community.
We toured a local home where we were not allowed to take pictures, because behind the flimsy metal around the compound the owner had laid cinder blocks. Since most Bedouin settlements are illegal, he worried that his attempt to build a permanent structure would mean a visit from Israeli authorities. As I walked into the compound, I saw a woman run from one “room” to another. I can only guess this was because her head was not properly covered, and she was worried the men would see.
Bedouins are a tribal society, and the intricacies of their internal politics are so complex that, honestly, no one could fully explain them to me. The Fellowship, however, understands how vital it is to help all Israelis, and simply tries to give the Bedouins what they need to survive – and they need so much. It’s hard to see how anyone can live in such primitive conditions when modern Israeli cities with all life’s amenities are so close by. But they feel a historic connection to the land and won’t leave it, even for better conditions.
The Fellowship donated two ambulances to the Bedouin community, since their closest hospital is in Beer Sheva, about an hour away. The Fellowship also donated bikes for kids to use to get to school. Last but not least, The Fellowship gave them food cards for use at nearby supermarkets.
Great things happen when Jews and Christians come together to show God’s love to people in need. The Fellowship exposes the Bedouin people to both Jews and Christians in a positive way. They welcomed Rabbi Eckstein into their community with open arms, and I know they would have done so for a Christian leader as well.
As a Christian, I reminded myself that it is not our job to judge the Bedouins, but to show them as much love as we can. And if someone asks us why we do what we do, we can simply point to our faith.