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Jamal Alkrenawi, Dr. Rivka Carmi and Robert Arnow

Robert and Joan Arnow with granddaughters Chloe, 13, and Talia, 16


Bedouin Center Empowers
Women Of The Desert

Text and Photos by Tim Boxer

OR 10 years the Robert H. Arnow Center for Bedouin Studies and Development has served as a magnet for the Bedouins of the Negev to acquire an education at the Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba.

It has become one of Israel’s major success stories. Today the center serves 500 Bedouin, half of them women. That is no small feat in a culture that does not encourage a college education.

At last week’s annual dinner of the American Associates Ben-Gurion University at the Grand Hyatt, university president Dr. Rivka Carmi pointed with pride at the professional women the center has produced.

There is the first female Bedouin physician. And last month their first female Ph.D. started her postdoctoral studies at Oxford.

On the male side there is Jamal Alkrenawi, one of seven children of an impoverished family in the Bedouin village of Rahat which, he said at the dinner, "suffers from the highest rates of unemployment, poverty and overcrowding in the country."

Jamal got a scholarship and earned free housing by volunteering to work in a Beersheba nursing home where he promoted coexistence between Jews and Arabs.

Since graduating in 2002 he’s been the academic counselor helping Bedouin and Arab students from closed traditional backgrounds integrate into an open western-style university.

"My chances in life," Jamal said, "are different to the ones my father’s generation was able to take. These kinds of changes shook my society, in positive and negative ways."

New lifestyles and ways of thinking are emerging among the Bedouin. But issues of confusion and alienation are still a problem

Dr. Carmi paid tribute to New York real estate titan Robert Arnow for making his vision a reality. The Robert Arnow Center provides the Bedouin with "a more promising future, particularly via access to higher education."

BGU is becoming a major force in educating the Bedouin community with a special emphasis on empowering Bedouin women.


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