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Reviewed by:
  • Culture Change in a Bedouin Tribe; The 'Arab al-Hgerât, Lower Galilee, A.D. 1790-1977
  • Gideon Kressel (bio)
Rohn Eloul , Culture Change in a Bedouin Tribe; The 'Arab al-Hgerât, Lower Galilee, A.D. 1790-1977 (Ann Arbor, MI, 2010), pp. 330

A thorough anthropological work of the 1970s summed up the end of the decade and published first as a PhD thesis in 1982 (Culture Change in a Bedouin Tribe; The 'Arab al-Hgerât, Lower Galilee, Israel, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), was summed up as an essay "Arab al-Hgerât: Adaptation of Bedouin to Changing Environment" in The Changing Bedouin (1984), ed. Emanuel Marx & Avshalom Shmu'eli, 157-86. Eloul's work is an estimation of both the adoptability and durability of culture traits, i.e., of customs that were altered and those that survived the modern age. This book does not include a return to patterns of "proper" Islam as, e.g., joining the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), succumbing to polygyny (despite a forbidding State law), and political support given to the Islamic Movement, which had evolved since the late1980s—and find no mention here.

Eloul's work is holistic, one of the richest and finest all-covering descriptions of a Bedouin tribe to be found in Middle Eastern anthropological writings. The'Arab al-Hgerât are portrayed through time since they arrived in Palestine-Israel and at present. The oral saga begins with their forefathers' appearance in the Galilee during the Ottoman period (1790-1917), during the years known as the "Rule of the Sheikhs", through the return of the Ottomans (1840), and the period of the British Mandate (1917-1947), after which the Israeli time (1948-1977) arrives.

The reader is told of the oral history of this particular Bedouin congregation and a lot about its social array. The book does not say much regarding anthropological traits that are not discerned among the 'Arab al-Hgerât compared to both Arab Christians and the Jews living in the same environment and conducting their social lives differently. Once the Israeli State and its organs bear an impact on the Hgerât way of life, along [End Page 184] with their traditional manners and customs, the two dissimilar systems—guidelines, varied as they can be, co-affect the group's perceptions of social, political, and cultural life, all mixed. Which are those durable cultural traits and why just these survive the "ordeal" of modernization, is a good theme for a continuous study.

Eloul's book contains appendices, tables (31!), maps, figures, and photographs of the leading tribesmen, an enormous amount of information. It is lacking though in clarification of traits that differentiate the 'Arab al-Hgerât from peoples living alongside them in the Galilee. As an example, presenting the Hgerât and elaborated data regarding employment characteristics, the book is short in an explanation of traits that prevail among their neighbors and are absent among them—e.g., the poor rate of females in the "active labor force" working outside the home. Based on the data he collected, Eloul relates the poor rates of Hgerât women working for cash return (p. 107 ff). The rate of participation of Arab women at work sites in Israel is somewhat higher compared to any other Middle Eastern country. This phenomenon is affected by the moral rules of both the 'Uruba and Islam that hinder women's work outside the home. Galilee work places may welcome the appearance of Bedouin women in growing numbers in the local labor market. Eloul's data as regards men at work is greatly elaborated, while the estimation of women at work outside their homes is meager. It is tradition that does not allow women to work, here as it is throughout the ME, and a thorough reporting of work conditions in general should have a say about it.

These days, when departments of anthropology succumb to questioning the transmission of researchers' senses to the extent of distrusting others' field notes, Eloul's book is timely. When a perception places doubt in the mind and its extension (mind and matter, after René Descartes) hence questioning the validity...


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