Bedouin Story

Western pilgrims with
Western mindset
Western behaviour
Western perspectives
Western prejudices
Western ignorance.

What is Western about our Western view of life?
We wear “I feel sorry for you” clothing.
We misinterpret simplicity for poverty.

Western tourists with a Western mindset.
We drove into the Judean desert and saw the spectacular sight of St. George’s Monastery clinging to the cliffs overlooking the Wadi Qelt. 

We encountered. 
Encountered whom?
Two Bedouin vendors – a middle-aged man selling orange juice, juiced on the spot from giant succulent oranges, with manual juicers, and an adolescent Bedouin selling trinkets. 

Immediately, we saw a desert pharmacy with abundant vitamin C as the elixir for the early stages of flu and cold symptoms. Hence, a day’s profit was guaranteed for these Bedouins from 48 Western tourists with Western dollars. 

With an obvious staff shortage, a few pilgrims positioned themselves on the other side of the portable table counter collecting money. At the same time, the adult Bedouin cut, squeezed, juiced, and delivered several four-ounce plastic cups of freshly squeezed orange juice.

In the end, a pilgrim hands over the collected Western dollars. The Bedouin counts diligently every dollar, not in suspicion, but for accuracy, realises he’s overpaid, and attempts to return the balance to the Western collector, who refuses to take it.  There’s tussling back and forth between the two. Finally, I intervened, telling the Western collector, “It’s his culture. Do not insist. Take back the extra money.”

I’m not sure what precisely is “his culture.” What I sensed was a Bedouin standing firm to a particular value. In obedience, the Western collector received it graciously and then, like the periscope of a submarine, eyes the younger vulnerable Bedouin and hands it to him. He gladly accepts it without the knowledge of the older Bedouin, perhaps his uncle, father or an adult of the clan. 

What did I observe?
Our Western value of generosity.

What am I questioning?
What’s the motive for our generosity?

How were we challenged?
Cultural sensitivity, cultural differences, and cultural respect.

The Bedouins, according to our pilgrim guide, “have no religion.” We witnessed a traditional value in action that may be threatened by a Western mindset, creeping into the minds of the younger generation of Bedouins.

What does the future hold for this group? 
An invasion of Western thinking!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: