Research in the Social Studies Unit spans a variety of disciplines relating to the social, economic and cultural aspects of desert habitation. Books, articles and scientific papers written by the Unit's staff are catalogued in the List of Publications.
Bedouin Culture and Society
Villages for Herders
Current anthropological literature regarding the Bedouin is mainly concerned with the transition pastoralists who have relinquished their traditional pastoralism in exchange for more modern modes of existence. Modernization of pastoralism and of the pastoral way of life in arid zones is a path to change which, despite its merits, has been largely overlooked. In an ongoing project, Prof. Kressel's team has been working with the Bedouin to reinforce the rural, as opposed to urban, alternative, which would enable them to retain their herds in deep desert lands on in situ feed. To this end, the team has been working with Middle Eastern and African experts to engage the local population in enriching the forage for their flocks/herds. (Funding: Ministry of Science and Technology). With: R. Paine, Memorial University, St. John, Newfoundland, Canada; W. Ruqian and L. Zhicheng, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing
The anthropology of the Bedouin settling in the Bedouin townships in the Beer-Sheva valley is the subject of a study, accomplished with the aid of research students.
The Economy of the Market Place
Kressel, G.M. and Ben-David, J.
The Bedouin market in Beer-Sheva has been the focus of our observations for many years. Now, through collaboration with the Bulgarian Society for Regional and Cultural Studies, our study of market behaviors also includes that of the Balkans-former Communist states undergoing transition. The economy of the Romma (Gypsies) in Bulgaria resembles the nomadic pastoralists in the Negev although the Romma do not possess livestock; it is their constant movement between markets that makes them similar. With: T. Thuen, (Tromso University, Norway) and Y. Konstantinov (Bulgarian Free University).
Pastoral Societies in the Middle East and Africa
Drought Planning and Rainwater Harvesting for Arid-Zone Pastoralists:
The Turkana and Maasai (Kenya) and the Negev Bedouin (Israel)
Bruins, H. and Kressel, G.M.
Pastoralists in arid zones are faced with profound difficulties, political and socio-economic changes in many parts of Africa and Asia. The viability of nomadic pastoralism is often affected, while the impact of drought has increased, which may lead to desertification. Detailed data about rural knowledge systems and livelihood strategies of the Turkana, Maasai, and the Bedouin are collected in a bottom-up approach, in order to develop socially acceptable drought-planning strategies and rainwater-harvesting systems for arid-zone pastoralists. While attempts have been made to direct them to agriculture, all three groups show a traditional reluctance to farming, but a readiness to cultivate land along with herding. We propose intensified resource management, including rainwater harvesting for increased cultivation and fodder production in drought years. The type of rainwater-harvesting systems must be optimal, not only in hydrological terms, but also in relation to land-rights boundaries and maintenance requirements. Proactive planning for drought is required at three levels: household, regional and national. (Funding: Netherlands-Israel Development Research Programme). With: J. Akonga, Moi University, Kenya, and researchers from Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, Nairobi; Ministry of Land Reclamation, Regional and Water Development, Arid and Semi Arid Lands Development Programme (ASAL), Kajiado Kenya; African Studies Centre, University of Leiden, the Netherlands.
The International Convention to Combat Desertification:
Mapping of the Four Arid Zones in Israel
The International Convention to Combat Desertification distinguishes four arid zones: hyper-arid, arid, semi-arid, and sub-humid. These zones are defined on the basis of the so-called P/ETP index, in which P is the average annual precipitation and ETP is the average annual potential evapotranspiration. There are several approaches to calculate the potential evapotranspiration. The research aims to evaluate the numerical and spatial differences in the location of the above arid zones in Israel, based on three different approaches to calculate ETP: (1) The Thornthwaite approach, as used in the World Atlas of Desertification. (2) The Penman approach. (3) Pan-A evaporation data as a proxy for ETP. The results are important for Israel as a basis for various desertification and drought studies, including social aspects, drought compensation and land-use planning. The results are also significant internationally to evaluate the three approaches in defining the arid zones in relation to the International Convention to Combat Desertification. With L. Turgeman (Department of Geography and Environmental Development, Ben-Gurion University) and P. Berliner (The Wyler Department of Dryland Agriculture).
Social Model for Intervention in Projects of Soil Erosion in Burkina Faso
Project director and senior researcher in a four-year research project (begun in July 1997) designed to study the implementation of projects to prevent soil erosion in three sites in rural Burkina Faso, Africa. The ability of farmers to take part in this process is being examined in order to develop a socially-sensitive model for planning future projects to combat desertification. (Funding: Netherlands-Israel Development Research Program).
Interaction Between Desert Dwellers And Agriculturalists in Africa
Data gathered over the last 15 years in field trips to Botswana among the people of the Tswapong region was used to examine the dynamics of relations and interactions between desert-dwelling peoples (the Basarwa or Bushmen) and settled agriculturists. Local people create their own divisions of land in ways that diverge from those of national policy planners. Indigenous knowledge and cultural frameworks, ignored by national planners, have had dramatic impact on actual economic and social realities. The data show that national policies of land reform have not brought about the expected egalitarian social and economic changes. On the contrary, despite the intended goals of such national policies, economic and social disparities increased.
Hazards and Disasters in Drylands
Government Policy and Management of the 1998-2000 Drought in Israel
Drought does not strike suddenly with violent force like an earthquake or hurricane. It is a "creeping phenomenon", as drought conditions develop passively in a non-dramatic way, due to lack of precipitation. The impact of drought can, nevertheless, be devastating. Drought affects more people, both in developed and developing countries, than any other natural hazard. However, water scarcity in modern society is not always the result of meteorological drought. If the state and/or the private sector create a demand for more water than is replenished, conditions of water scarcity develop, classified as socio-economic drought. Israel is currently affected by both types of drought. The lack of drought preparedness and the lack of proactive drought mitigation planning in Israel is a paradox in comparison to the highly sophisticated and efficient irrigation equipment the country has developed. Large-scale water desalination should have been developed in the wake of the previous water crisis of 1990/91. The state of government policy and management are investigated in relation to the 1998-2000 drought. With Y. Brafman and Y. Gradus (Department of Geography and Environmental Development).
The Marmara Earthquake in Turkey: Emergency Shelter and Temporary Settlements
A severe earthquake with magnitude 7.4 struck the Marmara region of Turkey on 17 August 1999. It caused severe loss of life, as more than 17,000 people were killed, many more injured and about 600,000 people that were in need of emergency shelter, because their home was destroyed or unsuited for habitation. The organizational, social and architectural aspects of temporary shelter and emergency settlements are currently being investigated in cooperation with Turkish colleagues from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Kocaeli University in Izmit and the Ministry of Public Works and Settlement, General Directorate of Disaster Affairs.
Hazard Assessment in Drylands:
Radiocarbon Dating and Chronological Benchmarking of Human and Environmental History in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Near East
Frequency assessment of earthquakes in the Dead Sea area: Correlating seismite sedimentary layers in alluvial fan deltas with historic earthquakes. Past earthquakes caused deformation of sedimentary structures in the uppermost sediment layer on the lake bed below the water level. More consolidated deeper layers were not deformed, while the seismite layer was later covered by undisturbed younger sediments. We observed cyclic repetitions of seismite layers over a rather wide lateral extent in most alluvial fan deltas in the Dead Sea area, including those of Nahal Kidron, Hazezon, Ze'elim and Mor on the western side, and in the fan delta of Wadi Mujib in Jordan on the eastern side. Six organic samples, usually small twigs embedded in the sediment, were collected for radiocarbon dating near the outlet of Nahal (wadi) Ze'elim into the Dead Sea. The sampled outcrop is part of a young alluvial fan segment at the front of the most complex telescopic alluvial fan system of Nahal Ze'elim. The radiocarbon dates range from 860 ± 40 BP (GrA-14265) to 2120 ± 40 BP (GrA-14261). The 14C date of organic matter from one of the seismite layers is 1980 ± 40 BP (GrA-14264); the calibrated 1s date is 40 BC-70 AD. This result may be correlated in time with the historic earthquake of September 2nd, 31 BC, as reported by Flavius Josephus. This was a severe earthquake that caused much destruction and 30,000 casualties in Jerusalem, Qumran, Massada and Jericho. With D. Bowman, Department of Geography and Environmental Development, Ben-Gurion University and J. Van der Plicht, Center for Isotope Research, University of Groningen, the Netherlands.
People and Drylands in History: Radiocarbon Dating and Chronological Benchmarking
Through high-precision radiocarbon dating, a very interesting chronological relationship was found between the large volcanic eruption at Santorini (Greece) during Minoan times and the destruction of the last walled Bronze Age town at Tell es-Sultan (Jericho). Geological evidence shows that the huge volcanic ash cloud moved to Egypt, suggesting a possible link between the Santorini eruption and the Plague of Darkness. The cereal grains from Jericho, used for 14C dating at the Center for Isotope Research (University of Groningen, the Netherlands), were derived from the archaeological excavations during the 1950s by the late Dame Kathleen Kenyon. The high-precision dates on the grains gave an average age in conventional radiocarbon years of 3,311 1 13 year BP. The average 14C age for the Santorini eruption, also based on short-lived organic material, as investigated in labs at Oxford and Copenhagen, is 3,356 1 18 year BP. The time difference of 45 radiocarbon years is rather striking, as it could fit the biblical desert period of 40 years separating the Exodus from the conquest of Jericho. With: the Center for Isotope Research, University of Groningen, the Netherlands
Settlement in the Negev
The Hebrew Israelite Communities of African-Americans
This research examined a new culture that evolved as the Hebrew Israelite Communities of African-Americans moved away from the American experience in the Black ghetto and adopted Biblical guidelines based on ancient Hebrew traditions. It records the history of their adaptation to the Israeli social and physical environment following their exodus from the United States to Liberia in 1967, and their arrival in the Negev in 1969. Members of the community incorporate two themes that they view favorably, while attempting to 'purge' themselves of one theme that they view unfavorably. The first favorable theme is a combination of a righteous way of life based on the Bible, and an interpretation of the history of African-Americans that places present-day Israel in north-east Africa. The second favorable theme is embodied in a holistic philosophy that brings together a vegan diet, organic farming, clothing of natural fibers, and homeopathic medicine. The theme that is viewed unfavorably is represented by ghetto life in the United States with its alcohol, drugs, and crime, and where the father is often absent from the family. The research was initiated at the suggestion of Professor Kressel. A book describing the first thirty years of the community's existence was completed in 1997. The book includes chapters written by anthropologists from Ben-Gurion University and members of the community.
Gender and Ethnicity in the Negev
This research documents the settlement experience of immigrants in the Negev town of Yeruham.towns and kibbutzim from the little-studied perspective of the Mizrahi (Oriental) Jews. The socio-demographic profile of the town is documented and ethnographic field research is being carried out. It includes collection of oral histories, participation in public events, interview with town officials. The research is conducted from a strong gendered perspective. with particular focus on women. (Funding: International Center for the Study of Jewish Women at Brandeis University, Waltham, MA.).
Cooperative Agricultural Settlement
Extensions in Israel's moshavim
During the last decade, Israel's rural sector has undergone sweeping transformations, which at the turn of the millennium are still going on. One of those transformations is the process of "extension", which has encompassed almost all moshavim (smallholder cooperative settlements) and a large proportion of the kibbutzim (collective settlements). Through this process, the settlements (which are located on government agricultural land) are allowed to admit new dwellers who will not become farmers nor share in the non-agricultural means of production. They will receive a small plot of land to build a house and plant a garden, also becoming members of the municipality. For those new dwellers, the moshav and the kibbutz are to serve as commuter communities. The process aims at doubling the population of settlements while also rejuvenating them and allowing the offspring of the moshav and the kibbutz to stay near their parents without becoming members. As distances in Israel are small, it is easy to commute from almost every moshav or kibbutz to a city. Since a small house with a lawn comes close to the Israeli dream, the extensions, especially those of settlements located in the center of the country, have generated considerable interest. This study, funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Village Life focuses on the consequences of the moshav extensions. The study considers the factors affecting the delivery of services, the relations between veteran members and newcomer dwellers, and the ways in which the extensions fit within the general process of gentrification which is affecting the Israeli countryside.
Planned De-Collectivization in a Well-To-Do Negev Kibbutz
This is a comprehensive historical and community study about the antecedents, implementation and consequences of planned change ("de-collectivization") in a prosperous and socially thriving kibbutz in the Negev. The main features of the change consist in increasing branch economic autonomy and accountability, privatizing consumption and creating some inequality of economic rewards as a function of differential contributions to the kibbutz economy. (Funding: The United Kibbutz Movement).In addition to structural features, this study also related to the ways in which individual and social relations were affected by the transformation.
The Economic History of the Kibbutz Movement
Starting in the mid-eighties, kibbutz organizations and individual kibbutzim have gone through a severe and protracted financial and social crisis. This research project deals with the antecedents of that crisis in terms of the special relationship between the state and the kibbutzim and the impact of that relation for their economic behavior. The present research has dealt with three levels of organization and behavior from the mid-1960s on: that of the national kibbutz organizations and their relationship with government and quasi-government organizations; that of the regional economic kibbutz organizations; and that of the individual kibbutzim. One of the major topics is trying to explain what distinguishes financially successful organizations and kibbutzim from unsuccessful ones. Another major topic is the collective response of these organizations to the crisis situation. (Funding: The United Kibbutz Movement).
Reshuffling the Organization of the Kibbutz
Kressel returned to the kibbutz that he studied 30 years ago and found a transition: work in common kibbutz enterprises is being replaced with employment outside the kibbutz, bringing members a greater sense of personal fulfillment. With the cooperation of the Kibbutz Federation Movement.
Cooperative Agriculture Settlement in Africa and Asia
Hare, A.P. and Schwartz, M.
In this three-year project a team of agricultural and social scientists from Israel, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Zambia, and Nepal, is recording the history of cooperative agricultural settlements that were founded in Nigeria, Zambia, and Nepal in the 1960s. In each country the 'Lakhish' model for the physical structure of a settlement was introduced, with a central administrative area and ten satellite villages. The method of cooperation was based on experience in Israel with the moshav (family-based cooperatives). Although parts of the physical structure of the settlements remained, very little of the cooperative methods of agriculture were still used. External events such as war, economic crises and government appropriation brought an end to the experiments. (Funding: Netherlands-Israel Development Research Program).
People-Desert Environment Relationships and Runoff Systems Analysis at Kibbutz Sede-Boqer Since the 1950s
Since the establishment of Kibbutz Sede-Boqer in 1952, various approaches concerning people-desert relationships have developed, also in an ideological sense. Pastoral production formed the key pillar in the first years and still forms part of the activities of the Kibbutz today, albeit with marginal economic significance. The use of different runoff systems for grazing and orchards is evaluated in terms of environmental impact, maintenance and cost-benefit evaluation. Some initial results indicate that certain liman structures are easily eroded and thus require intensive maintenance. Erosion and desertification can result from the absence of such maintenance. Ancient terraced wadi systems, built with stone check-dams, require comparatively little maintenance and are able to prevent desertification. With: D. Blumberg and members of Ben-Gurion University's Department of Geography and Environmental Development.
Small Group Dynamics
Small Group Dynamics
This research summarizes the main propositions in the social-psychological literature on social interaction in small groups as background for a computer program to simulate problem-solving in small groups. It includes the analysis of data collected from managers in organizations in the United States who have recorded their perceptions of other members of their teams. A key to understanding the descriptions that a manager gives to others is found in his or her "ideal" values. Managers who feel that contributing to the task is the most important value, will judge others primarily on their task ability, while those who feel that positive interpersonal relations are most important, will judge others primarily on the extent to which they are friendly or unfriendly. The most effective managers have, and bring together in their teams, a combination of these two dimensions of interpersonal behavior.