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April 26, 2013 1:40 pm

Israeli Bedouin Tracker: The Bedouins in the Region Envy Our Quality of Life

avatar by Zach Pontz

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Two IDF Bedouin Arab soldiers. Photo: wiki commons.

“This is our country,” Lieutenant Colonel Magdi Mazarib tells an AFP reporter in a recent profile.

“The flag of England also has a cross on it, and the Jews there are fine with it,” he says, noting that the country’s Jewish symbols, such as the Star of David or the theme of the national anthem, do not perturb him.

Mazarib is a Bedouin, a Muslim Arab who grew up in northern Israel, and is also the Israeli army’s highest-ranking tracker. The amiable and composed officer, as his profiler described him, “who with a shaved head, Hermes cologne and long, delicate fingers could pass for a business executive,” believes that Bedouin in the region aspire to the quality of life Israel affords its own.

“The state of Bedouin in Israel is better, as far as the respect we get, our progress, education,” he says. “It’s a different league.”

Bedouin dominate the small, elite tracker units guarding the country’s northern and southern borders.

“I was born a tracker, a Bedouin, and followed the flock,” says Mazarib, whose father was also a tracker.

Being a tracker is about “connecting to nature, living in the field,” he says. “If you want to be a tracker on the northern border, you can’t be from northern Tel Aviv.”

Although the tech-savvy Israeli army has an array of advanced means to detect infiltrators, “there is no replacement for the tracker, the soldiers, the warrior, who touches the ground, who also speaks its language and can say — here two infiltrated, here three,” he says.

“Members of terror groups don’t leave marks, they know what abilities the Bedouin trackers have,” he says. “Over time they create a range of decoys and means to cover their tracks. Our job is to uncover them.”

Today, the army says the number of Bedouin in active service is 1,655 — a tiny fraction of the 176,500 troops who make up the entire corpus of the active military, according to Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies.

There are approximately 260,000 Bedouin in Israel, official statistics show, with around 193,000 in Negev, 15,000 in central Israel and another 52,000 in the north.

There is a stark contrast between the Bedouin of the north and those who live in the south, Ziad Saady, who manages the Bedouin Heritage Centre, tells AFP.

Those in the south suffer from a “low social status,” with many living in poverty. Yet, the Bedouin of the north flourish and continue to remain an integral part of Israeli society. Two-thirds of the Bedouin in the army hail from the north.

To Mazarib, the Bedouin integration in Israel’s army and society could be evidence of the possibility of Jewish-Muslim coexistence, which “could serve as an example of how to solve the entire Jewish-Arab conflict,” he says.

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  • Ariel

    They are not Bedouins, And those are not IDF’s uniform.
    For those who question: i’m Israeli and i have served for 3 years in IDF’s unit 8200.

    Any who wants to know:
    Those are Bedouin scouts of the IDF, and that’s how the majority of them really look like:

  • Irv Katz

    Are you sure these two soldiers are Bedouins ?
    They appear to be of African descent ..

    • hanah tour

      There aremany bedouins, and actually also palestinians of african descent.
      Contrary to the populare belief, nurtured by palestinian propaganda , most of the palestinian population come from neighbouring countries, attracted by the economic activity of the Jewish population during the 20th century (which does not deprive them of the right for their own country). The roots of the ‘black’ arabs are slaves that where brought during 18th and 19th cent. hence the common name of Abed – which means slave

      • Richard

        They’re not slaves. They’re natives.
        Racist white people believe that if a black person exists outside of Africa, then they must be slaves. This is completely false. What about the Dravidians in India, they are black. Chinese people can trace their origins back to black people in Asia, and so can the Japanese (there’s a saying in Japan that to be a real Samurai, you must have some black blood in you). What about the Melanesians and Aboriginals of Australia? They’re black, and they aren’t descended from any slaves.

        There’s nothing about the climate in Arabia that would facilitate the origin of any pale/light-skinned people whatsoever.

        • bronze

          Everything you said there is wrong. These two individuals are obviously of african descent, and yes people in the middle east who have african ancestry are descendants of slaves, not natives.

          chinese and japanese people are not descended from blacks, and dravidians in India are not black, they are dark skinned but have different features and are genetically completely unrelated to african blacks.

          None of the samurais had any black blood in them.

          The locals of the middle east (Israel, Arabia, Iran etc) have never looked black or like these two soldiers, regardless how far back in history you go back, black people where not the first people.

          During the out of africa migration, modern black phenotypes had not developed yet.

    • Richard

      They are the N.A.T.I.V.E.S of Israel and Arabia (and Persia too). If you travelled back 2-3000 years in time, this is how the locals in the land would have looked like. They are not of African descent at all, they are native Levantines/Shemites/Arabs. The climate in Arabia is in many instances exactly the same as in Africa, it’s hot, arid and has a LOT of sunlight (i.e plenty of UV radiation). The only natural protection a human being has is black (brown actually) skin like these two fellas here. I don’t know how many whitewashed “history”-books you’ve read but these people who call themselves jews/arabs/palestinians/berber/egyptian (the pale skinned people) are nothing but Ottoman-Turks (Turk is an ethnic group) . They’re not native to North Africa/Arabia/Persia/Anatolia (present day Turkey) at all.

  • mickihaifa

    Thank you for educating the public on yet another facet of Israeli diversity.