been several years since I had visited the Bedouin to look for dogs. A woman
can not travel around among the Bedouin tribes on her own; this is unacceptable in the Bedouin culture. The warden of the Nature Reserves Authority who I had travelled with in the past had been transferred to
another area, and I did not know the new warden. It was definitely advisable
to visit with someone who knew the tribes and was respected by them.
However, as the plans
for the International Canaan Convention 2001 progressed, I decided that it would be worth trying to make contact with the
Bedouin so that we would have a better chance of seeing some Canaans during our trip to the desert. I called up Matti, the warden that I knew, and he gave me the telephone number of a Bedouin, Hassen, who
he said would be willing to help out.
How the Bedouin have
changed in some ways! They now have cellular phones, pickup trucks, and TVs powered
by a generator. But in most other ways, their life style is very much the same
as it has been for thousands of years.
The day of the trip to
the desert came, and on the way south, our tour guide and I called Hassen. He
was willing to meet us in the afternoon and take us back to his own camp. So
after a lovely visit to Massada and the Dead Sea with our overseas guests, we headed for Tel Arad, where we were to meet Hassen.
Hassens son was waiting
for us on the edge of the highway, where a rocky trail headed off over the low dusty hills.
There was no possibility that our bus could navigate that trail. Several of the guests were able to get a ride with
Hassens son in his pickup truck and the rest of us began to walk along after him.
At first, there was nothing
in sight except the dry brown undulating landscape. The hilly layout of the land
here is very suited to the Bedouins temperament the camps are completely hidden from one another and from any visitors until
you actually climb the rise behind which the tent is hidden. You could be standing
fifty meters away from a camp, and not have the slightest idea that it is there. After
walking for a while, first we came to a group of camels very nice ones, in very good condition, that were hobbled and grazing
on the very sparse vegetation. Camels are very valuable livestock so of course,
as we came closer, we heard the dogs that were guarding them begin to bark.
Ahead of us on the hillside,
we could see the encampment, and several dogs started running towards us. And
they clearly were Canaans! There was a large cream colored male with cut ears
(the Bedouin cut the ears of their best watch dogs so that they will guard better they believe that this makes them more alert),
a very nice type of dog that I would have been happy to have, a red bitch, and in the distance a few more, including a puppy. As we came closer to the camp, another dog came over the rise barking a very pale
cream dog, nearly white, of a lovely type, with erect ears and very dark nose and eye pigment.
This one was even better than the first male!
Hassen and his family
greeted us with the typical Bedouin hospitality, inviting us all into their tent for tea.
We all sat on the carpets spread out for us on the ground, and the women, who appeared to have dressed in their best
in honor of the visitors, served the sweet tea.
As we were getting ready
to leave, after the visitors photographed the Bedouin and the dogs, camels, sheep, and so on, I decided that I would try to
convince them to let me have one of the dogs. They seemed to have quite a large
number, and I thought they might be amenable to letting me have one. At first,
I was offered the puppy that was running around the camp, but after they had caught him and brought him over, I saw that he
was of a different type, with a longish coat, and not really what I was looking for.
He was not from their dogs, the Bedouin told me when I asked who his parents were, he came from the neighbors. This could mean that he was from another tribe kilometers away.
Getting up my nerve,
I asked about the white dog. Yes, I could have him, they said. Not the one with
the cut ears he was their best watch dog but the young one
I was overjoyed that
was just the one that I wanted! We agreed that I would come back to get him it
was impossible to take him now on the bus. I would call the day before I intended
to come down to the desert, so that Hassen could catch the dog and tie him.
The prospect of getting
a new dog from a new bloodline was very exciting, and I didnt want to waste any time the Bedouin move around a lot, and their
animals move with them, and chances were, if I waited too long, the dog would be gone.
So I talked to a friend of mine in Arad who had spent years working for the Nature Reserves Authority, and knew the
Bedouin and their customs, and arranged for him to go with me once again, as a woman alone, I could not go to visit the Bedouin. We were also joined by a friend who is a professional photographer, in particular
of dogs, who very much wanted the chance to photograph this event. Two weeks
after my first visit, we were again on the way to the desert.
I wasnt sure that I could
identify the turn off onto the dirt track, but when we got to the area, I found that I did remember the landmarks, and found
the turn without trouble. Getting up the track was another story, though. My car is a little Fiat Uno, not very powerful and very low to the ground. As we jounced over the rocks studding the trail, I had major misgivings over what this was doing to my
poor little car, especially when we got stuck at one point and all of us had to get out and push the car out of a rocky ditch. Was getting a new dog worth wrecking my old car?
But we did manage to
make it to the camp, with the car still in one piece. The Bedouin were waiting
for us. Hassen was there with a son in the twenties, and some of the younger
children. They had prepared the tent with colorful carpets and cushions for us
to sit in, and we were invited in.
We were welcomed with
typical Bedouin hospitality plenty of hot sweet tea, and then hot and very strong and bitter coffee. At this point, after some casual conversation Hassens son proved to be quite well educated and up to date
on what was going on he even knew that there had been a big dog show in Tel Aviv a few weeks earlier with dogs and visitors
from abroad, though he really wasnt sure he understood the point of such a thing I asked if they had managed to tie the dog
for us. Yes, they said, he was tied right outside the tent. And indeed, there he was, a few meters away, tied to a pole and hiding under an old tractor, very unhappy
about the situation. We had passed right by and not seen him!