Negev Tours to meet Bedouin

Most tours to the Negev are pretty standard fare. However there is much more to the Negev than visiting a staged Bedouin tent where a dutiful Bedouin employee will serve tea. The vast majority of Bedouin have long since given up living in tents. Most of the 165,000 Nevev Bedouin now live in shantytowns, or 'unrecognized villages' as the Israeli government calls them. Some have moved to the 'official' government towns that were built to clear wide areas for Jewish settlements and farms.

One of these is Kseifa, just south of the West Bank, and east of Be'er Sheva the capital of the Negev. Kseifa is a curious mix of decent looking housing with shacks around the perimeter. On Saturdays there is an animal market where everything from cows to camels and chickens are for sale.

To visit Kseifa go south on Route 40 to Be'er Sheva, turn east on route 31, past route 60 for about 12 kilomteres. If you hit route 80 you've gone too far. Turn right into Kseifa. It's best to go with a Bedouin guide or someone who knows the town, otherwise you may be asked who you are and what you are doing there. This writer was accosted on his last visit when a man pulled open the door of the car and demanded to know the purpose of the visit. All was explained by the Bedouin guide who had just stepped into a nearby shop. The reason for this departure from traditional Bedouin hospitality was the  fear of government inspectors who ferret out illegal construction and other infractions.

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