Thursday, February 21, 2019

An experience with a New Dawn in the Negev

My experience with the Bedouin of the Negev has been a remarkable one. I have been fortunate as an educator, human rights advocate and activist, to have been allowed to assist Mr. Alkernawi and his organization a New Dawn in the Negev.

He is a CEO who undertakes a massive effort, with international support, to not only help his fellow Bedouin people adjust to life in the 21st century, but retain their identity, while also fostering better relations between Israeli and Arab. In a real sense, though often quiet, his organization is paving the road for future peace. It is thanks to him I was made to feel so welcome by the Bedouin community.

It was thanks to a New Dawn that I was able to open my mind and let go of preconceptions about the Bedouin people. This is something I believe all Israelis, and anyone who cares about Israel should take the time to do. All too often people thousands of miles away have a say in influence or financial support, but do not actually understand the situation of life in Israel. Visiting, meeting, speaking with is something that should be done, especially here, before a judgement or decision is made.

Many who pick a side do so without realizing there are more than just Jew or Arab that composes Israeli society and what its peoples face- it's an international culture that is also ancient, and without direct communication and dialogue with those who live here, peace is difficult.

This is why what a New Dawn does, via education, implementing music programs for Arab students, and grants for studying and community improvement is so important. It opens the door for someone like me, a Virginian, Buddhist, and Jew, to consider them not only allies in my dream for a better future for Israel, but actual friends. It has allowed me to teach English in Bedouin villages, help those seeking aid, and even establish gardens in the middle east, literally helping craft a better way of life. And it is not only they who have benefited, but I as well. One story that stands out is a Bedouin friend had found a small Buddha, long lost in the desert, and knowing my background and beliefs brought it to me. People all too often judge without looking- there is a profound respect in this people, both for themselves, and others, but all too often people mistake it for pride when it is genuine integrity.

I would not be surprised if in the future a New Dawn achieved its goals with full integration of Bedouin within Israeli society- where both parties can work together because of our differences, rather than in spite of.

If anything, my hope is that those who read this piece take the time to look into A New Dawn in the Negev, the history of the Bedouin people in Israel, and consider how assisting them also assists Israel and the world in stepping toward stability here.

Israel in a way, has a leader who would make Martin Luther King Jr proud of his efforts, I just wish the world knew more of Mr. Alkernawi's efforts concerning not just Bedouin and Israelis but all others with compassion as well. A great example of this was the gala dinner on 01/2/2019, where a German fellowship visited Bedouin, experiencing the legendary Bedouin hospitality. This visit was in friendship, organized by multiple organizations from multiple countries. Here the students demonstrated effort of cultural inclusion from their perspective. From doves of peace handmade from clay, to the union of symbols associated with the major faiths of Israel. It was here Mr. Alkernawi spoke, welcoming and thanking all for participating.

On one hand those from Germany were able to enjoy traditional Bedouin foods alongside Hungarian mousse and other European foodstuffs. On the other the importance of the gathering and meal was underscored, not just only in remembering the past, but that remembering the past is integral for the world, for Jews, Germans, Bedouins and Arabs to thus carry forward. It is with a responsibility that comes with understanding and empathy, a responsibility to stand up and go because we can, and those who can must, it is only in this way the errs of the past will not only not be repeated, but can also possibly be remedied and rectified.

The earnest friendship one could see in Mr. Alkernawi's speech underscores that- no matter how tired, we love what we do because we know that undertaking such courses enables the world to turn a little better, with smiles worn a little more easily upon it.