The JOE ALON Center for Bedouin Heritage
The Joe Alon Center for Regional Studies, named after the late Colonel Joe Alon and opened in 1974.
Colonel Joe Alon, one of the founders of the Israeli Air Force, and the commander of the near-by Hatserim AFB, was very active in developing and conserving the relationship between the State and the then-nomadic Bedouin tribes of the Negev desert. He died in 1973, in a still unsolved murder case, while serving as our Air attaché in Washington DC.
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, urban, 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 colorful display includes historical exhibits alongside modern objects, demonstrating both daily life and spiritual aspects of Bedouin tradition.
The museum also allows us to learn “how Abraham, and our forefathers, lived”.
If you have a bit more time on your hands they also have some other desert exhibitions worthwhile seeing :- Daroma cave replicas; Lookout over the desert landscape; The Bar Kochba Wing; “The Desert Awakes” – the Jewish National Fund in Israel and in the Negev
Opening hours are usually 8:30 – 4/5.
The museum is situated around an hour drive south of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on the way to Beersheba, the Negev desert and Eilat. The tour takes an hour and I recommend seeing the 12 minute video (ask the cashier), a tour of the museum and exhibits and spending 20+ minutes in the Bedouin tent as a guest of Sheikh Ali whose hospitality and stories are something special.
The entrance to the Center
Museum exhibit – the bride on her way to her future husband’s tent
Museum exhibit – A Sinai Bedouin’s mountain abode
Museum exhibit – the tent
The Sadd – for baking pita bread (here gas heated) originally by burning sheep dung.
Sheikh Ali in the Diwan busy making coffee for his guests
My tourists enjoying Bedouin hospitality in the Diwan (lounge/dining room).
Colonel Joe Alon – the memorial corner