Adnan Gharabiya, 34, lives in Wadi al-Na’am, a Bedouin community adjacent to Ramat Hovav in the south of Israel. The place is not connected to the electricity grid or to running water. While working on his thesis, Gharabiya discovered that instant messaging applications are extremely popular among Bedouin youth, the poorest, most neglected segment of Israel’s population. Girls find IM service extremely useful as it allows them to bypass cultural prohibitions and not be scrutinized for chatting with boys, or even falling in love.
Quotes and link from an interview with Gharabiya below:
“The tribal structure is very strong, and a teenage boy up to age 18 is almost constantly around the tribe and the community,” says Gharabiya. “The Bedouin are usually isolated and cut off also from the rest of Israeli society, from the rest of the Arab sector, which lives mostly in the north, and from Arabs in other countries. Chat rooms open a window.”
The Internet made the greatest change in the lives of young girls. “In Bedouin society there is rather strict separation of the sexes, and a chat room is the only place where they can talk with members of the opposite sex,” says Gharabiya. “It is especially significant for the girls, because their social circle is even smaller, and their freedom of movement is limited. Not all of them can leave their parents’ community. Unlike the boys, girls are not allowed to go to town after classes, or to visit friends. In this respect, technology is very important.”
“In our society, the girl must be respectable and act moderately, because what’s important for a girl in this society is her reputation,” said A., one of the girls interviewed for the research. “In Bedouin society, it is forbidden to talk to a boy, to send him letters and to fall in love with him … but in a chat room, no one knows if you’re talking to boys there. They think you’re a good, respectable girl, and that’s the main thing. You write to people while no one sees you, but you and your real-life behavior are always under scrutiny.”
Chat rooms let them bypass customs and prohibitions, and overcome the strict limits in traditional society, primarily the separation of the sexes and the severe restrictions imposed on women. “There is a lot more freedom in a chat room,” says Gharabiya. “Among the family, it is not common to discuss all subjects, primarily when the children are adolescents. In a chat room, you can discuss everything, if you find someone who is receptive.”
This is a fascinating insight Gilad! Thanks for sharing. If I am not mistaken, the same can be said of almost all Arab countries, especially in communities where it is unacceptable for ‘girl to meet boy’!
I’m glad you are writing about this for GVO, Gilad. I really enjoyed reading your journal entry on it.
I find the way technological integration in the Middle East affects cultural norms fascinating.
I am a Spanish female, 30, and just came back from Petra where I met a bedouin guy who physically really impressed me. Because he gave me his phone “by chance”, since then we have been texting and talking on the phone, but I keep wondering what he may think about me because the honesty of my messages…
That’s why I liked your article Gilad, it helps me understand the bedouin culture a bit better and to confirm it is not far from what I expected.
Someone who knows about this culture advised me it wasn’t worth the effort and indeed, most of the times I feel I will just complicate my life if I go on. I have got a free mind and spirit and although you can do many things for love, I find it almost impossible to get addapted or to understand their woman’s role. However, I cannot take him out of my mind…
Just felt this was an interesting forum to write my bedouin story…
hi im bedouin from petra …..
im vary happy to her your story Elena
it maik me feel so happy .. you know i live in petra in the cave your story maik me feel so good . and you are welcome if you com to petra again
ahmad bedouin of petra mobail number 00962796190243