Facts about the Bedouins

Basic information about this misunderstood community of southern Israel.

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This fact sheet was compiled by Dr. Elie Rekhess, Visiting Crown Chair in Middle East Studies, The Crown Family Center for Jewish Studies at Northwestern University, and Director of the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation at Tel Aviv University and a team of Jewish and Arab researchers.

Demographics, Socio-Economics and Politics

-In 2008, 170,000 Bedouin lived in the Negev, accounting for approximately on quarter of the population in the region. In addition, 60,000 Bedouin live in the Galilee and close to 10,000 in central Israel.

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-The term "Bedouin" defines various groups of traditionally pastoral nomadic desert-dwelling Arabs (exclusively Muslims). Since the 1950s, the Bedouin in Israel underwent a process of sedentarization with an emphasis on agricultural production.

-The Negev Bedouin have one of the highest natural growth rates in the world, 4.3% in 2008. This means that the population doubles once every 18 years. The Israel Land Administration projects that the Negev Bedouin population will reach 300,000 by 2020.

Demographic Features (2006) Negev Bedouins Muslims Jews
Natural growth rate 4.2%  2.6% 1.4%
Fertility rate  6.9% 3.8% 2.9%
Ages 0-19  66.1% 51.8% 33.4%
Infant mortality (per 1000) 10.6 7.1   2.9

-The Bedouin who live in the Negev are by far Israel's most disadvantaged community in terms of per capita income, unemployment, education and public infrastructure.

-According to the Ministry of Interior's socio-economic ranking of 400 localities in Israel, the four lowest-ranking municipalities and local councils are Bedouin townships (Kseife, Tel-Sheva, Rahat, Ara'ara in the Negev and Segev-Shalom).

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The Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues is a coalition of North American Jewish organizations who are committed to the welfare of Israel and advocates for social and political equality for all its inhabitants, Jews and Arabs alike.