Israeli tourists visit the Bedouin town of Rahat in the Negev desert

Published on : Friday, June 8, 2018

Israeli touristsThe Bedouin town of Rahat, in the Negev desert, has a reputation among many Israelis as a wild, lawless and generally no-go zone.

 
The town made news last month when local residents clashed with police officers over a traffic stop. Masked men were recently seen in the area driving down the highway firing automatic weapons out of the windows of their SUVs.

 
Hence, it was pretty unusual on a recent evening when several busloads of Israeli Jewish tourists arrived for exploring a different and alluring side of the city as promised by a tour company.

 
“Come and experience the magic of Ramadan nights,” a newspaper ad beckoned in Hebrew.

 
A main goal of the tours, according to Rahat’s Mayor, was to spruce up the image of Rahat, which is otherwise a drab conglomeration of low-rise buildings. The town is known for its poverty and low rates of education and life expectancy.

 
“Rahat is not only what you read in the media, the negative things, there are also good things,” Mayor Talal al-Krenawi said.

 
For $28, the six-hour Ramadan Nights trip included a guided bus tour of “the secrets” of Rahat, along with traditional debka dancing and sweets-making workshops, shopping in the no-frills market and home hospitality for iftar, the festive meal that ends each day’s sunrise-to-sunset fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

 

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