Cindy Schwartz Kline
Mercaz Joe Alon–museum of bedouin culture–you must pay the extra 25 shekels and get a guided tour, this is in Hebrew. If you want an English tour it is very costly and you have to organize it in advance. It was a very special experience.’
The Joe Alon Center for Regional Studies, named after the late Colonel Joe Alon, opened in 1974. The center lies in the heart of Lahav Forest, in the southern highlands of the Judean Plain, and commands an impressive view of much of the northern Negev. Lying in the middle of Lahav Forest, Joe Alon is an educational visitors` center specializing in the geography of Israel, particularly that of the Negev.
The center includes a Bedouin hospitality tent where tea and coffee are brewed, a Museum of Bedouin Culture, an exhibit about the Bar Kochba revolt, a presentation on Jewish settlement in the Negev, a stunning panoramic view of the entire region and much more besides.
The Museum of Bedouin Culture, the only museum in Israel devoted entirely to the Bedouin culture, was established in 1985 when it became apparent that the formerly nomadic Bedouin tribes of Sinai and the Negev were in a process of transition to a more settled way of life, moving to established towns and villages. The Bedouin have recently acquired a modern way of life, reflected in cultural, social and economic changes as well as changes in housing, dress etc. As a result, many of the former Bedouin ways of life are disappearing, and with them the objects and traditions of Bedouin society, prompting a need to collect, preserve and record them before they completely disappear. The museum’s collection came from two main sources: Kibbutz Lahav, and a Bedouin museum established in the Sinai Mountains by Orna and Avner Goren. The museum reflects the life of the Bedouin in the Negev and Sinai over the last century. The colorful display includes historical exhibits alongside modern objects, demonstrating both daily life and spiritual aspects of Bedouin tradition. The entrance leads to the upper floor, where exhibits display the means of survival characterizing the Bedouin in the deserts of the Negev, northern and southern Sinai, exposing the complex layers of Bedouin culture. The visitor walks around the display in a circle, resembling the wanderings of the Bedouin and the cycle of the seasons. Displayed here are different types of dwelling, articles of clothing, examples of crafts and traditional economies, pieces of jewelry, toys etc. A display of authentic woven carpets hangs down from the ceiling into the central hall. The visitor continues down a flight of stairs to the lower floor, devoted to more spiritual aspects of traditional Bedouin life: history, society, the cycle of life, traditional medicine, and the customs of the Bedouin market. All are displayed using original photographs alongside rare and fascinating objects. Groups are accompanied by Bedouin guides, who share their unique personal experiences of Bedouin culture with