Multiculturalism and Ethnographic Museums in Israel: The Case of a Regional Bedouin Museum

Havatzelet Yahel, Ruth Kark, Noam Perry

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter considers multiculturalism in Israeli society, and its expression in museums. It showcases one regional/ethnographic museum that attempted to present two different cultures in the Negev of Southern Israel. We first relate to museums of nomads and Bedouin in the Middle East. We then discuss the topic of multiculturalism and ethnographic museums in Israel and whether Israel represents a multicultural society. Given the many museums in Israel and the proliferation of ethnographic museums in the last three decades, we suggest that these museums tend to present Israeli culture as ethnocentric rather than multicultural, reflecting ethnic re-awakening rather than the ‘melting pot’ envisaged by the founders of the State. We then relate to the Bedouin museums in Israel. Our detailed case study is of a museum of the Bedouin, part of the Joe Alon Center for Regional Studies, the primary aim of which was to reflect multiethnic and multicultural societies within the Negev. This task placed it in a challenging, complex and controversial position, attempting to navigate between two different narratives. We explore how the museum evolved through the years, presenting the different identities, and discuss its efforts to create a bridge between Jews and Bedouins within the Negev’s polarized population. While museums in Israel can potentially play a constructive role in nurturing mutual respect for cultural diversity, at the same time, the displays may serve to widen rather than bridge the gaps between competing national narratives and promote ethnocentricity.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNature, tourism and ethnicity as drivers of (de)marginalization
Subtitle of host publicationinsights to marginality from perspective of sustainability and development
EditorsStanko Pelc, Miha Koderman
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-59001-1
StatePublished - 2018

Publication series

NamePerspectives on Geographical Marginality
ISSN (Print)2367-0002
ISSN (Electronic)2367-0010


  • Israeli ethnographic and regional museums
  • Israeli museums
  • Israeli society
  • Multiculturalism
  • Negev Bedouin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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