Babylon & Beyond

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ISRAEL: Bedouins have solar-powered mosque

February 21, 2008 |  9:58 am

Here comes the sun!

Israel may not have the energy resources of many of its neighbors, but it sure has sun -- roughly 300 days a year of it, according to some accounts. Thanks to research initiated in the 1950s, it has become a pioneer in harnessing the sun for domestic water-heating purposes.

Now, the Bedouin village of Drejat has got the power. Twenty of the village's houses run solely on soleil, from refrigerators to laptops. The local school uses solar lighting and the village boasts what is probably the world's first solar-powered mosque.

According to the Israeli news site Ynet, the pilot project started in 2005 with support by government ministries. But funding has run dry before the implementation of phase B, connecting another 60 homes.

Before going solar, the village (population 900) had to rely for power on generators operating on costly fuel to provide only four hours of electricity a day. More than 150,000 Bedouins live in the Negev, a 12,000 square kilometers of desert. The tribes had lived in the area for centuries prior to Israel's establishment in 1948.

The people of Drejat haven't forsaken tradition, in spite of sporting shiny solar panels atop their roofs. Besides continuing tradtitional practices, the village's tiny tourism venture invites visitors to enjoy folklore in traditional cave dwellings and the hospitality for which Bedouins are famous.

— Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem