Bedouins of the Holy Land, TheMiddleEast - August 2006

This article was my first major project to be published in the UK. Photographer Alex Masi and I spent more than a month and a half among Bedouin tribes in Israel in order to document their lifestyle, and the difficulties they endure daily as they try to integrate with the mainstream Israeli society.

Published on The Middle East magazine. More images can be found on Alex's website.

Pictures and text are also available to be syndicated separately.

A bit more on Bedouins of the Holy Land

The following extract comes from an essay I wrote about Theory and Practice in the work of a journalist. It says a bit more about my experience with the Bedouins.

In November 2005, photojournalist Alex Masi and I travelled to the Middle East to follow a project on Israeli Bedouin tribes, thanks to contacts we had made with Bustan’l’Shalom, a NGO working in the region, staffed by both Jewish and Muslim activists. That trip and the following one in March 2006 resulted in my first major story to be published in the English press. (Bora, 2006)

From the very beginning, I understood that a traditional journalistic approach — a modus operandi that, ideally, wants to be completely detached from the subject of a story in order to preserve impartiality — was not going to work as well as theoretical models studied at school would have put it. The reality of the Bedouin society struck me more deeply than I had expected, and I could not help but proving sympathy for their plight. Israeli citizens in every aspect, they constitute a sizeable minority of Israel’s total population — about 180,000 in a nation of 6 million — but they often struggle to raise the international public attention, overshadowed by the more familiar Palestinian conflict.

Furthermore, they are at a crossroad of historical importance that is alienating older generations from younger ones, thus threatening the very foundations of their patriarchal, herding society. Modernity infiltrating their uneducated lives, and their supposed integration with the wider Israeli society, have so far had as their sole effect the creation of two groups that face different problems in very different situations. About half the Bedouin population has accepted the government’s relocation offers and has become urban proletariat, while the other half has staunchly refused to resettle and still lives scattered in the desert, without electricity, water or sewage systems, in villages that the authorities do not recognise.

A few days into my trip were enough to understand that it was a story that needed to be told. But this is how far my journalistic instinct and my theoretical preparation could take me, while more pressing questions regarding the validity of a standard approach multiplied as I went along. Was objectivity achievable? Did I need, as a foreign reporter, to be a witness only and leave aside my own opinions? Could the emotions, smells, and tastes I have experienced living among the tribes have a role in my reporting and foster a better understanding of their reality?

Reference: Bora, D. (2006) Bedouins of the Holy Land. The Middle East, August/September
2006, pp. 54-58.
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