“In truth we know very little. Mostly we live here on the planet like alien tenants.” Clif

Negev Desert

Negev Desert

Sheik Hamad waved his outstretched hand to take in the vast arid Negev desert. “We must not make prophetic statements,” he said, pausing for emphasis before continuing, “no person can know what Allah might decide. However, we can predict an outcome based on our experience of what has been seen to occur before.”

In my searching trail of locating scientific agreements with psychic and ethnic phenomena, I had just come from a discussion with a Professor of Climatology in Essex University, UK. This was 1982 and what was stunning, almost incomprehensible to me as I recall it, was his flat statement. “It is already too late to correct the imbalance in the environment.”

So when I got to the Negev the next week to interview the Bedouin Sheik, I was ready to thrust with all engines to debate cultural wisdom as against  the ‘truths’ of science.

But first, following desert custom, visitors are invited to drink coffee and be served with enormous plates of food.

The welome

The welcome

 

Coffee breakCoffee break

While waiting for the water to heat, and the food to arrive he continually pounded the coffee in a rough mortar accompanied by, I was told, a special rhythm not just to alert others that coffee was being prepared but the sound itself was an important part of improving the flavour.

Beduoin one figure

Home to the Bedouin – no soil or water

 

 

 

Sheik Hamad

Sheik Hamad

 That done, we all went outside and I saw he was hesitating. I gave him my best questioning look and after a moment he began reciting a poem, to the astonishment of the interpreter who, in three years of studying the Bedouin way of life had never heard any such poem recited! I must have touched a deep connection with the Sheik. He turned towards a white construction nearby.

“This is the tomb of the Predictor” he said, showing respect with a raised hand towards it. (The interpreter was beside himself with awe). It would be impossible to recall all of those revealed predictions. However one of them was extremely clear. “Many, many years before the man had predicted that when there was a black road running from Egypt to (what is now Israel), all the men of the tribe would grab their guns and run away, leaving their women behind.”  Strange prediction indeed. However, that highway was completed just before one of the wars between Egypt (year?) and Israel started. The sealed road (i.e. black tar) meant that troops could travel on it at high speed and they caught the Bedouin camp by surprise. If the men were going to be able to defend their families, they needed to grab their guns and flee and, yes, leaving their women behind.

Beduinpredictors tombpredictors tomb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

predictors tomb entering israel tomb

 

 

 

 

 

 

That was so moving and you can even see the long black road winding across the burnt  out desert. Which was my next – obvious – question – how did the Bedouins survive centuries after centuries in these conditions.

“We survive as Nomadic people,” he explained, “by carefully husbanding the scarce grasses, knowing that for six months of every year there will be no rains. Each October, I must predict where, how much and when the rain will come. I go out into the desert and find a flat rock. As you know salt is more precious than gold in this bleak place, but I take a small amount of salt and four small stones and leave them overnight. In the morning some salt will be slightly moist, another pile will have a river-let, and maybe another completely dry. I can plan our travel to preserve the little oases of life.”

salt with fingers

salt piles with stones