Pleasure to meet you, my name is Salem Abu Siam, I was born in a tent, in the area of Katef Beitarim and Mount Goral (Tawil Abo Gherol, next to Be’er Sheba).
As the eldest son to my parents, at the age of ten I set out to work as a farmer, in various places in Israel, to help provide for my family.
I graduated from the eighth grade in Tirah, and that spring, I was at the agricultural school in Mikve Israel, and passed the exams to stay at the school, as a boarding school. I had a strong urge to study and integrate in the social life.
I was the first Bedouin to be educated in an agricultural youth village, Mikve Israel. Many students were interested in me, both from my class and from higher classes. The tutors and the social guides all evaluated my being an excellent student. Every year I would get an evaluation card for my success in school, at work and in my social behavior.
In 1967 I was sent with my class to perform practical work in Kibbutz Gevat, as is standard in agricultural schools. During three months, each student was working in his area of specialty. I was working in the falha, which is growing crops with agricultural machines.
I returned to Mikve Israel by the end of June. This episode in my life has ended. As I was going back to my tribe, I went to the Ministry of Agriculture in Beer Sheva, to ask about working for them. I was asked to write a request to the headquarters of the Ministry, in Tel Aviv.
After submitting this application, I turned to the Ministry of Education in Jerusalem, applying to work as a teacher for the Bedouin tribes. To my great surprise I was appointed the principal of the Al-Azazmeh school. I served in this role from September 1st until November 30th, 1967. I withdrew from my position as principal, due to my acceptance for the Ministry of Agriculture as an agricultural guide for the Bedouin tribes in the Negev, on December 1st, 1967.
My work as an agricultural guide for the Bedouin tribes in the Negev was not usual, as I was first and foremost a professional. Behaving in a traditional way, being a psychologist, sociologist, handling problems not in my area of expertise, be patient, take in a lot, ignore a lot more, and reach the point of all that is said. Seeing the wolf and feeling its way.
I arrived to guide agricultural guides in the north of Sinai, in El-Arish, Abo-Agilah, tours and guides all around the Sinai tribes, forming methods and professional recommendations for each area according to geographic division.
I created methods for handling crops, recycling seeds, rest years for the land, fertilization, and pesticide control, all done by innovative machines owned by the Bedouin tribes.
I have initiated the agricultural machines within the Bedouin population for many years, and now the Bedouins perform by themselves all the works in their fields in the Negev – about 250,000 dunam. In addition, the Bedouins are contractors for agricultural machines for works done in various Kibbutzim, Moshavim, farms, private farmers, business partnerships in agricultural machines with Kibbutzim and sharing machines like tractors, combines, sprayers, etc.
The Shepherding in the Bedouin Tribes in the Negev
During recent years, there was a professional change in the area. In the beginning of my work with the tribes, the fertility rate of the sheep was about 50% and the mortality rate of the lambs was 20%, and at best cases, there were 30% of live lambs. Proper feeding and keeping stock of food for wintertime, when it is impossible to shepherd, a need of vaccines and low sanitation terms.
Raising the Bedouin herd. The sheep and goat serve for meat and dairy products. The milking is only for a short and partial time and is designated for personal consumption only.