Photographer Natan Dvir’s images of “18 year-old Arabs living in Israel” were inspired by his realization that he knew little, and understood less about Israel’s Arab society. Arabs consist of “over a fifth of the population,” but these “hundreds of thousands of families who continue to live within Israel’s borders” are invisible within Jewish society. Dvir “became interested in the stories of these people living as a minority in a country defined by its majority’s religion.” The images are of men and women – all of them 18 years old. He’d hoped that as teenagers approaching adulthood, they may be “especially aware of an identity crisis and willing to talk about it.”
Among the 18 year olds is Reeham (picture above), a Bedouin girl from a family of 11 brothers and sisters. Her family came to Israel from Sudan, and now “live in neighborhoods 7, 11 & 20 in Rahat, the only Bedouin city in Israel.”
Here, her family still tries to “preserve elements of our nomad culture”: movies, theatres, and nightclubs are not a part of the neighbourhood; “Men hang out in hookah bars or playing snooker, while women spend their time at home or visiting friends.” She plans to become a doctor – an ambition that her family encourages. Her brothers tell her to go and study in England or Jordan, though she imagines medical school in Russia. It’s a new beginning for her here: a future full of possibilities.
“It is extremely rare that a Bedouin woman would be allowed to study away from home not escorted by a male family member, so I am very grateful for my family’s support.”
Others don’t have as easy an entry to their hopes. Sliman, another Bedouin from Shkip (one of the 47 Bedouin villages not recognized by the state of Israel) explains that the authorities do not provide them with water or electricity nor allow them to build permanent houses.
His home was destroyed a week after they received the court order: “Many policemen arrived at the village, evicted us out of the house and destroyed it together with 6 other buildings.” In the image, Sliman sits on the rubble that is left after his home was demolished.
“My father served 23 years in the Israeli army. Two of my older brothers were about to join the army, yet refused to do so after our house was demolished. I do not want to serve a country that doesn’t respect the Bedouins and denies us of our rights. All I dream about is having a big house with running water and electricity as others do.”
* Dvir’s work is available on Lens Culture, an online magazine featuring international contemporary photography, art, media, and world cultures.–Neelika Jayawardane.