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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Desert Embroidery - Empowering Bedouin Women in the Negev

Camels, tents and women in black embroidered dresses swaying over the desert sand: visitors to the Negev desert in Israel can still catch glimpses of this romantic picture from the past.  But today most of Israeli’s 177,700 Bedouin live in towns and unrecognized villages. The transition from nomadic lifestyle to permanent settlement has brought many changes, particularly for women.

The nomadic Bedouin woman enjoyed a central position in Bedouin Society. She herded the family goats and sheep, drew water from the well, raised vegetables in the family plot, educated her children in the traditions of her tribe and her Moslem religion, prepared food on an open fire, wove and embroidered her family’s clothing, among her many tasks. She enjoyed meeting her neighbors at the well and carried on an extensive social life despite the distances in the desert.
With the move to permanent settlement, the Bedouin woman moved from the open horizons of the desert to the four walls of her own house. Her traditional tasks were replaced by those of a housewife. Her economic contribution to her family vanished, as did her opportunities for a social life.

In 1996 the Association for Advancement of the Status of Women, Lakia, was established with the goal of improving the status of women in Bedouin society and Israeli society as a whole. Run and operated by Bedouin women, it is sensitive to the needs of their community.

The flagship project is the Desert Embroidery and Visitors' Center which provides alternative sources of income for the women through the creation of an industry based on traditional skills.

Today I had the chance to visit the centre and enjoy the colourful display of embroidered products on sale. I also met Na'ama Elsana'a, the dynamic force behind the establishment of the project which began with 15 women and has trained over 160 women from Lakia and surrounding Bedouin communities.

In addition, the association educates the women and raises awareness about essential issues for the community.

 Na'ama with Amy Kronish, who uses the Lakia embroidery in her coexistence quilts.

It's well worth visiting Desert Embroidery in Lakia but call in advance: Na'ama - 054-6734621 or

My favourite piece:


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