My Friend is a Palestinian Bedouin:  XIII. Getting Acquainted

My Friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: XIII. Getting Acquainted

After the entrance, a Westerner may immediately start with direct questions about the other’s life. Two of the first questions are likely to be what the other person does in life, referring to either work or studies, and whether one is married and has children. For Bedouins both these questions are too direct. They will ask you to come and sit with them and have a coffee or tea. After some time they may ask where you come from; if this is from a town they know, they will ask exactly from which part of the town. Questions about work will be asked at a later stage of the acquaintance, though possibly still in the first encounter. One assumes men over 25 years of age to be married, though a question about one’s family status may be raised in a subsequent meeting. Most often, there will be no more questions about one’s nuclear family. Bashar added that historically, Bedouins are not supposed to ask their guest for his name, where he came from or where he goes, at least for three days. After that, they can ask. He sees this tradition as an issue of both privacy and security.

My experience of “getting acquainted”

The different attitude among the Bedouins toward names was not so much an obstacle, as something to become accustomed to, and as a result, the challenge was mostly behavioral. Although at first I thought that the lack of interest in my name was out of lack of interest in me, soon it became apparent that this was not the case. One’s private name is simply not that important for Bedouins, and about my family name, they could not care less. I had to get used to Bedouin style introductions. The questions one asks when meeting someone for the first time become an automatic part of getting acquainted. It was at times difficult to stop this automatism, and stay aware that in this culture certain – to me standard – questions are not appreciated, at least not at an early stage of the acquaintance. Although at times I would have wished this was not the case, on acquaintance among the Bedouins I was always perceived as an outsider, a foreigner, by my outstanding physique – lighter skin color and greater length. Other Palestinians would consider also the option that I am Israeli, or infrequently think I am “one of them” (or at least approach me in Arabic).


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About the Author

Daniel Weishut

Daniel WeishutDaniel J.N. Weishut, born in the Netherlands but living in Jerusalem, is a professional with a diverse background. He holds an MA in Clinical Psychology and an MBA in Integrative Business Administration, both from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and a PsyD in Clinical and Organizational Psychology from the Professional School of Psychology (Sacramento). He has about thirty years of experience in consultation and therapy with a wide variety of clients and issues, more than twenty years of practice in group facilitation, and over fifteen years of know-how in governance and management in various organizations. Daniel Weishut offers his services as a "Partner on the Way", while taking a world-view that people are diverse but equal. He works with a variety of clients, but his special interest is in work with those who have found themselves persecuted or otherwise in conflict with their social environment, because of their culture, identity or belief system. For example: migrants, expats, refugees, Holocaust survivors, soldiers, pacifists, and individuals from religious, cultural or sexual minorities. Daniel Weishut is a social activist and in this capacity he volunteers as Chairperson of the Israeli Association of Group Psychotherapy, as Member of the Membership Appeals Committee of Amnesty International and as forensic expert for the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. He also is involved in raising awareness about the situation of Bedouins around Jerusalem; awareness which led among others to the writing of his dissertation "My friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: Challenges and opportunities in intercultural friendship".

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