Ishmael Khaldi gave a speech about his dual identity as a member of both the traditionally nomadic Bedouin community and as part of a contemporary Israeli society on Monday night. Although not a native English speaker, Khaldi portrayed his experience as an Israeli Bedouin.

“It’s hard to consider myself [solely] a Bedouin,” Khaldi said. “I consider myself multilingual, multicultural, and indeed, my future kids, nieces, nephews and other Bedouins will be more Israeli and multicultural.”

Khaldi explained the hardships that his fellow Bedouins faced when migrating to various parts of the Middle East and Africa, including Israel. These adversities included the politics of former British colonists, friction between Arab and Bedouin cultures and the influx of Jewish immigrants to Israel after 1949. These situations convinced Bedouin leaders that they had to modernize and stop practicing some of their traditions to ensure future prosperity.

The lack of leadership, according to Khaldi, will always have grave ramifications.

Khaldi, a former soldier for the Israeli Police Force and student at Tel Aviv University, is currently the director of the non-profit organization Etgar, which promotes higher education among the Bedouin.

“Bedouins started to understand that continuing their tradition was not the [best] option [as] they [became] more integrated in Israeli modern society,” he said. “The main thing is that education is the key to success for the Bedouins to make the transition from their nomadic society to the Israeli contemporary society.”

Khaldi’s Bedouin identity significantly impacts his view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although he is not Jewish, he still cares deeply about the fate of Israel. “We will do anything to make sure Israel lives in peace and security,” he said. “As a Bedouin, we believe that problems among enemies can be solved by negotiation. In the last few years, there has been a failure. The failure comes from the Palestinian side trying to reach an agreement, but with no success because the Palestinians have no leadership.”

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