Sheikhs and imams are fed up with the driving culture among Israel's Bedouin population and have taken steps to improve driving skills in the community. For the past two months 23 Bedouin clerics have attended driving improvement workshops at the Rahat community center, in the Negev. They have attended lectures, taken cars out onto the roads and written papers about driving practices.
The project is sponsored by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the Israel Police, the National Center for Child Safety and Health (B'terem ) and the Road Safety Authority.
After taking part in the program, the sheikhs and imams will begin spreading the word about safe driving during the traditional Friday prayer services in their mosques.
"We view this as a special mission. Our horizons were widened, and we learned a lot about what happens on the roads in the Bedouin community," Sheikh Abu Zargal Gama, of Rahat, said.
"Now that the course has ended, we will start our own work in mosques, at special events, even at weddings; we will talk about the importance of road safety everywhere," Sheikh Abu Zargal Gama said.
According to figures issued by the Israel Police, over the course of the past year six Bedouin infants were killed after being run over in yards, driveways and alleys in Bedouin communities. Between 2006 and 2014, there were 14 deaths in road accidents in Rahat.
"The Arab population represents just 20% of Israel's total population, yet 58% of road accidents involve Israeli Arabs and Bedouin," said Salman al-Karnawi, who directs Rahat's road safety bureau and who coordinated the special course for the sheikhs and imams.
"The statistics scare us," he added.
The program was initiated after officials from the Transportation Ministry and the Interior Ministry's Muslim Department determined that Bedouin religious leaders have the power to influence members of their community.
"We have an hour to give sermons each week, and we will take advantage of this in mosques to deliver messages that we learned in this course," Sheik Khalil al-Baz, who attended the program, said.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now