The Bedouins of Israel have been marginalised and persecuted since the establishment of the State of Israel. Over the decades, they have suffered from exclusion, expropriation of property, and violations of their rights. The exclusion of the Bedouin population from mainstream Jewish-Israeli society, and the weakening of the traditional Bedouin culture and social structures, resulted in a growing disconnection from tradition and leadership. Conventionally, the Bedouin society, excluded and located on the periphery, has been perceived as ‘empty’, existing in a void. But now this so-called void is far from empty.
A new religious class has emerged with great power and influence that is loved by most groups. Religious leaders constitute significant social and political capital, which has a strong influence on inner circles in Bedouin and on outer rings in Israeli society as a whole. Moreover, an economy based on religious institutions has emerged that is propelling slow but steady growth.
The Bedouins are an integral part of Arab society in Israel; they are a national minority that predates the establishment of the state. There are approximately 300,000 Bedouins in Israel, comprising 12% of the Arab population and 18% of the non-Jewish population in the country. On the whole, the Bedouin population is rather young. They have unique cultural, ethnic, and social characteristics. On the one hand, it is a closed society, and on the other hand, it is marginalised by the hegemonic Israeli state and society. Although considered as conservative, it is a dynamic society that has constantly changed since the establishment of Israel. These change processes have fashioned it into a ‘transitional society’, as it has transformed from a ‘traditional’ into a more ‘modern’ society. This transition is reflected in the changes in various areas of life, including education, the economy, and housing; mostly as the results of the development of the education system, which led to an increase in the level of education and an improvement in the economic situation. However, these changes have been inconsistent over time’ and they are not comprehensive. This suggests that they are largely a product of personal initiatives and are led by charismatic and enterprising individuals.