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Bedouin women settle into worklife

A Bedouin woman and girl walk through an unrecognized Bedouin Arab village in Israel. Most of the residents there live below the poverty line.

TEXT OF STORY

SCOTT JAGOW: Palestinians and Israelis were supposed to hold a summit today, but it's been called off. The Palestinian president says Israel hasn't done enough to reduce tensions between the two sides. Israel has had a tough time reducing tensions within its own borders, let alone with its neighbors. Take the nomadic Bedouin community. As Shia Levitt reports, women are bridging that divide most successfully.

Shia Levitt: Thirty-year-old Sarah Abu-Kaf lives in a small Bedouin community on the outskirts of the Israeli town of Beer Sheva. She is one of the few women in her village who leaves each day to work in the city.

Abu-Kaf is trying to hustle her kids out to school as she gets ready to head to her research and teaching job at Ben Gurion University, where she's getting a PhD.

Abu-Kaf says she wants to be a role model for her children, and she's hoping to help treat depression among Bedouins when she finishes her degree.

It's only a half-hour drive to campus, but the city center and her community feel like different worlds.

Her house has no regular electricity, so she uses a private generator a couple hours a night to run the TV, fridge and computer. Since no public busses run in her village, Abu-Kaf's husband drives her to work each day on unpaved bumpy roads.

Most of the jobs open to Bedouins are menial and not available to women. Abu-Kaf says women see education as a way to compete for skilled jobs.

Sarah Abu-Kaf (voice of interpreter): More women are finishing high school then men. That means women will have more job opportunities in the future.

When Abu-Kaf becomes the first Bedouin clinical psychologist in the region, she'll earn equal to or more than her husband.

She says many women are anxious to earn income for their families.

Jalela Assad: No one wants to sit down and wait for her husband to give her money or something. Everyone wants to be like, "I want to take care of myself."

Traditionally, parents have spent more money on boys education, since girls marry out of the family. But that could change with the prospect of a two-income household.

I'm Shia Levitt for Marketplace.

TEXT OF STORY

SCOTT JAGOW: Palestinians and Israelis were supposed to hold a summit today, but it's been called off. The Palestinian president says Israel hasn't done enough to reduce tensions between the two sides. Israel has had a tough time reducing tensions within its own borders, let alone with its neighbors. Take the nomadic Bedouin community. As Shia Levitt reports, women are bridging that divide most successfully.

Shia Levitt: Thirty-year-old Sarah Abu-Kaf lives in a small Bedouin community on the outskirts of the Israeli town of Beer Sheva. She is one of the few women in her village who leaves each day to work in the city.

Abu-Kaf is trying to hustle her kids out to school as she gets ready to head to her research and teaching job at Ben Gurion University, where she's getting a PhD.

Abu-Kaf says she wants to be a role model for her children, and she's hoping to help treat depression among Bedouins when she finishes her degree.

It's only a half-hour drive to campus, but the city center and her community feel like different worlds.

Her house has no regular electricity, so she uses a private generator a couple hours a night to run the TV, fridge and computer. Since no public busses run in her village, Abu-Kaf's husband drives her to work each day on unpaved bumpy roads.

Most of the jobs open to Bedouins are menial and not available to women. Abu-Kaf says women see education as a way to compete for skilled jobs.

Sarah Abu-Kaf (voice of interpreter): More women are finishing high school then men. That means women will have more job opportunities in the future.

When Abu-Kaf becomes the first Bedouin clinical psychologist in the region, she'll earn equal to or more than her husband.

She says many women are anxious to earn income for their families.

Jalela Assad: No one wants to sit down and wait for her husband to give her money or something. Everyone wants to be like, "I want to take care of myself."

Traditionally, parents have spent more money on boys education, since girls marry out of the family. But that could change with the prospect of a two-income household.

I'm Shia Levitt for Marketplace.

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