Museum of Bedouin Culture

Orna Goren

chief curator

Museum of Bedouin Culture

The Joe Alon Center near Kibbutz Lahav D.N. Negev 85335, Israel

The Satellite Museum - The Museum of Bedouin Culture at the Joe Alon Center

There are more than 200,000 Bedouin in Israel today, most of them live in the Negev. Some live in towns and villages, others in unrecognized permanent settlements.
The Bedouin are going through the final stages of transition from Nomad Life to permanent settlements. There are drastic changes in all aspects of life. But, although tents are disappearing, tribal ties, hospitality and Bedouin law still exist.
The Museum of Bedouin Culture is situated in the Northern Negev, near dense Bedouin population, on the border between the desert and arable land and the Palestinian Authority. The aim of the museum is conserving Bedouin tangible and non-tangible heritage, serving as a bridge between past and future and promoting co-existence between Bedouin and Jews.
At the museum one can see the permanent and changing exhibitions, the hospitality tent and the women's tent at the Open Air Museum. There are special activities for children and rich print and film libraries for students of all levels. We also give out scholarships for research on topics relating to Bedouin heritage and life today. Visitors to the museum are families, preschool and school children, high school and university students, tourists and soldiers. They include Bedouin who come to learn about their disappearing heritage.
The professional guides at the museum, including young Bedouin women (which is not very common here) are mostly Bedouin from the area. They combine their personal stories of the transition in the tour. Both Jews and Bedouin working at the Museum of Bedouin Culture, the Joe Alon Center, share the goal of making the center a place of knowledge.
We realize that the best way to understand others is to get to know them. The aim of the Museum of Bedouin Culture is to teach about Bedouin life in the desert and today, the rich Bedouin Heritage. We aim to build a bridge between cultures, to create respect and tolerance for the minorities living with us. The Intifada - the severe clashes between Israel and the Palestinian Authority - reduced the number of visitors coming to the museum. Building the Satellite Museum was a way to reach out and bring the Bedouin story to the schools and cultural centers, instead of them coming to us.
Together with a Bedouin education man we came up with the idea if a miniature museum. Together we thought of all the things that would interest both Bedouin and Jewish children.
The Satellite Museum is built of five double-sided showcases, which are placed around a larger central pillar-showcase. They are connected with black woven material - just like a tent. In the showcases the story of a day in the life of a typical Bedouin family, from the middle of last century, enfolds. The daily chores father, mother and children divide between themselves, working the land, school, solving health problems, a wedding in the family. Around the showcases are panels with photographs, a panel comparing life yesterday and today, panels with activities and games and the "Desert Post" - viewers' responses to the family in the exhibition.
When the Satellite Museum gets to a school it is used as the basis for many activities. The students become researches, asking questions and finding answers, they learn basic words in Arabic, try their hand in weaving and other artistic activities. Our guides accompany the Satellite Museum and help the children and youth with the Bedouin experience. Very often this is an opportunity for Jewish and Bedouin or Arab students from the area to meet and enjoy the experience together.
Recently a joint project between the Museum of Bedouin Culture and the Abu-Kaf school was brought together through Kim Frumin who had heard about the Satellite Museum, and the Fulbright Fellowship. The program "Kids with Cameras" resulted with an exhibition now on display in our art gallery and will be shown in the future in a number of places in Israel and the USA.


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