The Bedouin Zionist Who Keeps Israel Safe

Meeting Proud Muslim Nomad Who Guards Israel's Border

Taking Aim at a Stereotype: Tuvia Tenenbom poses with his interview subject’s assault rifle.
Isi Tenenbom
Taking Aim at a Stereotype: Tuvia Tenenbom poses with his interview subject’s assault rifle.

By Tuvia Tenenbom

Published March 19, 2014, issue of March 21, 2014.
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But Magdi keeps a serious face. “My wife’s grandmother,” he says, “is a Holocaust survivor.”

This is the last thing I expected to hear from Sheikh Magdi.

I came here to hear about trackers but he speaks Holocaust unto me. And before the conversation shifts into stories about Auschwitz and Lodz, I quickly change the topic.

“Why are the Bedouins trackers?” I ask. “Do you have better noses?”

“It has nothing to do with the nose or the eye. To be a tracker you need to have a suspicious nature, and the Bedouins are suspicious people. We are people who, by our tradition, have experienced blood revenges and honor killings, and when we see a strange car stopping next to our home, all the fuses in our heads light up and we immediately ask: Who is that man and why is here? Immediately we walk over to the man and say: ‘Can I help you?’ This quality, this suspicious nature, is what I need at the (Israeli) border; that’s the soldier I want to have!”

I ask Magdi if he could take me to his place of work, the Lebanese border.

We get into his army jeep and he drives. The landscape is gorgeous, tainted only by a fence that we drive along. Israel is on one side of the fence, Lebanon on the other. I spot yellow flags on the Lebanese side. No, they are not the flags of Lebanon but of Hezballah. It is amazing to see: The army facing Israel at the border is Hezbollah, not the Lebanese army.

“Could you take me to the part of the border, right next to where the Lebanese and Hezbollah are?” I ask him.

Magdi obliges.

He drives me to the nearest point of the border into Lebanese territory, where we get off.

“Look at the top of the hill facing us. What do you see?” he asks.


“Do any of the houses remind you of something?”

The one with the dome —

“Right. That’s a replica of the Al-Aqsa mosque. They built it to tease the Jews.”

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