The head of an Israeli Arab Bedouin tribe in southern Israel claims that his and possibly other tribes in the area have Jewish ancestry.
In an effort to strengthen ties to Israel’s Jews, Sheikh Salem al-Huzeil met with area Jewish leaders and told them that his ancestors were Jews who were forced to convert to Islam following the Muslim conquest of the Holy Land 1,300 years ago. Many Bedouins in Israel maintain customs that are foreign to other Muslims, but which bear a distinct resemblance to Jewish practices.
The sheikh said his tribe has no intention of converting back to Judaism, but demonstrated that he views the Jews of Israel as family, not enemies. He has even campaigned for the immediate and unconditional release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Many of his neighbors strongly oppose al-Huzeil’s views and positions and have called for his death.