Social activist shares experiences

By Saj Sri-Kumar

An activist spoke to the Gender Studies class about her career advocating for the Bedouin minority in Israel on Tuesday.

Devorah Brous, who is married to Upper School English Department Chair Larry Weber, talked about her work, which helped the Bedouin people of the Israeli region of Negev overcome the obstacles they faced.

“Some [of the Bedouin] people don’t have access to water [or] electricity when people across the street do,” Brous said. “Why is this distinction being made?”

Brous said that the Bedouin people were originally semi-nomadic, until the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire and finally the Israeli government slowly tried to curtail the area where they could roam.

More recently, the Israeli government has started confiscating property and demolishing Bedouin settlements, out of a concern that the country lacks sufficient land to allow the Bedouin to practice their semi-nomadic lifestyle.

Brous feels that the government has failed to explore all options, saying that the government should try to establish contained agricultural communities that would allow the Bedouin people to let their livestock graze on the land, but still conserve land.

Six years after she first arrived in Israel, Brous formed the organization Bustan in 1999 to help fight on behalf of the Bedouin people.

Brous also talked about the problems she had to overcome as an unmarried woman without children in a male-centric culture.

She said that many in the Bedouin community did not initially respect a woman who had no children, while many women felt threatened by her and thought that she might try to steal one of their husbands.

In addition to talking about her own activist career, Brous spoke to students about the importance of activism over protests and rhetoric, encouraging them to look into causes they feel strongly about.

“Words have become cheap,” she said. “The issues that make us the best activists are those that come from the inside.”

Since leaving Israel in 2008, Brous has worked with the organization Netiya to expand people’s access to food and reduce the pesticides used in growing crops.