al-Sayyid or al-Sayed (Arabic: السيد; Hebrew: א-סייד) is a Bedouin village in Israel. Located in the Negev desert between Arad and Beersheba and just south of Hura, it falls under the jurisdiction of al-Kasom Regional Council. In 2011 the village's population was 3,109.
The tribe's oral history tells that its first leader moved to the area from Egypt with his wife (of local origin) some time in the beginning of the 19th century. They settled amongst the other Bedouin tribes around Beersheba and lived off the land. However, other tribes refused to marry their daughters to the al-Sayyids, who were known as "the foreign fellahin." Eventually the head of the tribe managed to marry his sons to women from the Gaza area. However, their low social status meant that they continued to be rejected locally, and so the next generation began to marry cousins, a trend that continued for five generations. Even today other tribes continue to veto marriage ties with the al-Sayyids.
The social differences between the tribe and its neighbours led to opposition to plans to include the village within the municipality of the nearby city of Hura (that was established in 1989). Instead, the village was placed under the jurisdiction of Abu Basma Regional Council. It was officially recognized following Government Resolution 881 on 29 September 2003, which created eight new Bedouin settlements (seven of which were to be located in the Abu Basma Regional Council).
Al-Sayyid is mainly populated by members of the al-Sayyid tribe, who are noted for the high levels of deafness amongst their population and their subsequent development of the al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language, which is used by many of the hearing villagers as well as the deaf. Five percent of the tribe (150 of the 3,000 as of 2004) are deaf, compared to a usual rate of 0.1%. One suggested cause is the high level of inbreeding within the tribe; 27% of marriages are between cousins, and 65% are between couples related in some way, and a quarter of the population carries the deafness gene. This is attributed to the tribe's historical isolation in the area. There is a presumption that a recessive gene for profound deafness is traced back to sons of the "founding" couple, whose two out of five sons were deaf.
Infrastructure and public services
Since 2004, when the village was recognized, there was a significant infrastructure improvement. Several new school buildings were erected. Today there are three elementary schools in Al-Sayyid. The nearest university is Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Be'er Sheva.
The phenomenon of an al-Sayyid Bedouin sign language in al-Sayyid was first revealed in 1990 by anthropologist Shifra Kisch, and it became well known in 2005 when an international team of researchers from different universities, including University of Haifa, headed by Wendy Sandler started to study this unique sign language. A New York Times journalist Margalit Fox wrote a book about it, called "Talking Hands: What Sign Language Reveals About the Mind".
- "Locality File" (XLS). Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. 2011. Retrieved February 2, 2013.
- al-Sayyid at the official Abu Basma regional council page (Hebrew)
- One in twenty Haaretz, 2 June 2004
- Government resolutions passed in recent years regarding the Arab population of Israel The Abraham Fund Initiative
- Michael Phillips, Signs and Wonders, retrieved from The Wall Street Journal, August 23, 2007
- It takes a Beduin village The Jerusalem Post, 3 October 2007
- Nicholas Wade, A New Language Arises, and Scientists Watch It Evolve, The New York Times, February 1, 2005
- A list of schools in Al-Sayyid Education Ministry (Israel) official site (Hebrew)
- Medical clinics in Al-Sayyid, Bezeq
- Sign language research laboratory, Al Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language
- al-Sayyid Abu Basma Regional Council (Hebrew)
- Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language (ABSL), YouTube, December 2011
- Lands of the Negev, a short film by Israel Land Administration describing the challenges in providing land management and infrastructure to the Negev Bedouin
- Bedouin information Israel Land Administration