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Come on Over to My Place!

Diplomat Ish (front row in sunglasses) and the ESRA visitors

It all began when ESRA Modiin invited Israel's first Bedouin diplomat, Ishmael Khaldi, to come and speak to us in February about his life's work, and to promote his short but fascinating book A Shepherd's Journey. From the many questions he fielded at the end of his talk, it became apparent that the 70 strong audience wanted to know much more. Soin the vein of true Bedouin hospitality, he invited everyone to come to his home village of Khawalid, just north of Haifa, to meet his parents and some of his 11 siblings and see his roots for themselves.

The date, March 31, was set and even the weather was kind to us. Following a week of rain and cold, Thursday dawned bright and clear and a full bus-load of happy Modiiners set sail. The trip north was enhanced by two factors. Itzik, by chance our driver for the day, was full of useful routing suggestions and Cynthia Barmor, co-chair of ESRA Modiin, was a mine of fascinating information about the history of land distribution in Israel from her many years of working at Keren Kayemet LeYisrael (JNF) which she shared with us as we traveled.

On arrival in Khawalid, Ish, as he is called by all, along with his charming parents, Fatmah and Mhimad Khaldi, greeted us in their large home and invited everyone to enjoy a wonderful spread of traditional Bedouin treats, together with tea and coffee with cardamon. He shared with us his visions and frustrations on two levels. The first was on the local level of uplifting his community to share in the advancement of the village and its peoples, and the second was in his work for the government's foreign service, having served in several consular posts overseas. He was particularly excited about his most recent trip to Nigeria and the possibilities it offered Israel. But, of course, neither visions allow him plain sailing. After listening to him for more than an hour, he took us on a walking tour around his village, sharing his obvious passion for the many 'works in progress'.

Forget about the romantic idea of tent - living; there was not a single tent in sight. The whole village of about 500 people live in villas that would grace any city in Israel. The transition from third world to first world seems to have been achieved without foregoing their culture, unlike many Bedouin in the south of Israel. However, Ish personally feels they do not get sufficient recognition or resources from the local regional council. The villagers still raise sheep and goats, as evidenced by a large stock of feed found in the middle of the village but mostly they and Ish's siblings, work in nearby moshavs. He seems to be the only one in his family who went on to higher education, although he is very proud of a niece who is working in airport security at Ben Gurion airport.

After saying farewell to the Khaldi family, we made our way to Givat Ada and enjoyed a most interesting stop at a farm shop famous for its organic olive oil, amongst the purest in the Middle East, and its organic wines. The area provides comfortable picnic facilities where we ate our lunch, drank free tea and coffee, and enjoyed a great farm shop to which most women in the party made a straight beeline.

The group arrived back in Modiin just before 5pm and all agreed that this should be the first of manytrips to be organized by ESRA Modiin. With this in mind, we plan to put out a questionnaire to find the most popular destinations. 



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Monday, 24 June 2024

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