Headline, March 27 2021/ ''' '' SOCIETY'S ILLITERATE SORCERY '' ''' : ONLINE



JERUSALEM : A VANISHING DESERT SOCIETY to get a new life online. An Israeli researcher is digitizing 50 years of field work on traditional Bedouin culture.

When Clinton Bailey first began documenting Bedouin life in the 1960s, the nomadic tribes lived pretty much as their ancestors, raising livestocks, wandering in search of pastures and pitching tents under the stars.

Mr. Bailey would join their desert migrations in the Negev in southern Israel. and the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt for weeks on camelback. They would try their luck at planting grain in the winter, he said, then venture months later for the harvest.

With a tape recorder, camera and jeep, he spent the next 50 years recording Bedouin oral poetry, tribal negotiations and trials, interviews with elders, weddings and rituals, proverbs and stories.

'' I decided to try to capture that culture,'' Mr. Bailey said. ''I could already see that it was beginning to disappear.

Now 84, Mr. Bailey recently donated the archive of 350 hours of tape audiotape, photos and slides to the National library of Israel.

Providing a broad portrait of the lives, art, law, economics, history and customs of what was largely an illiterate society, the archive is being fully digitized and catalogued online. Believed to be unique in depth and scope, the archive will be freely accessible to scholars and researchers everywhere and preserve the trove for posterity.

''It was a story of survival going back 4,500 years,'' Mr. Bailey said, describing his fascination with the adapted to the harsh conditions of the wilderness. ''I lived among the Bedouins and  traveled with them, listened to them and asked them questions.''

''THEIR CULTURE IS ABOUT 2,000 years older than the Bible and made a very big contribution to Judaism and Islam.

Mr. Clinton Bailey, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., who also advocated for Bedouin civil rights in Israel, practically stumbled into his lifelong pursuit. After having studied Islamic history and and Arabic in Israel and earning a Ph.D, from Columbia University in New York City, he returned to Israel in 1967.

Mr. Bailey has written on Bedouin poetry, proverbs, law and most recently, Bedouin culture in the Bible. It all took patience. Describing some of his subjects as ''great poets and smugglers,'' he said, ''I often had to hang around with them for a day or so before I'd maybe hear a poem.

By about 2008, when he stopped working in the field, it had become harder to find such people since many who had grown up in the traditional way had died. Some of their children inherited the memory of the culture he said, but that too gradually faded as distance and communication changed with the advent of transistor radios, cars and mobile phones.

Most of the Bedouins still living in the Negev are thought to have migrated to the area centuries ago from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Syrian desert.

Mr. Atawneh was born in 1945, before the establishment of the state of Israel. For the Bedouins that was not a happy experience. ''We used to be a free people who roamed the Negev and had land,'' he said, ''but no documents, being an illiterate society.''

The Israelis exploited their lack of deeds, he said, and many lost their land overnight. First, the Bedouins were forced to move east. Then Israeli military rule was imposed, requiring them to get permission to go anywhere.

Once military rule was lifted in 1966, the changes came fast. Job opportunities opened. The government worked to urbanize the Bedouins, building them new towns that lacked infrastructure. They began to come into daily contact with Israeli society.

''The men began to wear shirts and trousers instead of traditional garments,'' Mr. Atawneh said. ''They started speaking a new language, learning new customs.

Two meals a day became three meals a day then refrigerators were moved into homes. Instead of gathering at hear the elders talk, ''everyone was sitting at home in front of the TV,'' he added. The Bedouins also came to value formal education.

Mr. Bailey's work has won praise from Bedouins, Including Daham Al Atawneh, a retired publisher from the Bedouin town of Hura in the Negev. Mr. Atawneh said Mr. Bailey had done ''very sacred work,'' particularly in collecting poetry.

The Honor and Serving of the Latest Global Operational Research on Mankind and  Societies All, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Isabel Kershner.

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