Journal of Community Genetics

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 395–398 | Cite as

Prevalence of consanguineous marriages and associated factors among Israeli Bedouins

  • Wasef Na’amnih
  • Orly Romano-Zelekha
  • Ahmed Kabaha
  • Liza Pollack Rubin
  • Natalya Bilenko
  • Lutfi Jaber
  • Mira Honovich
  • Tamy Shohat
Short Communication


The Bedouin population in Israel is a semi-nomadic traditional patriarchal society. Consanguineous marriages are very common, contributing to high rates of congenital malformations and genetic diseases, resulting in high infant mortality. Data on consanguineous marriages among Bedouins in Israel are limited. This study examined the current prevalence of consanguineous marriages and their determinants among Israeli Bedouins. One thousand two hundred ninety Bedouin women who delivered in the maternity wards of the only hospital serving the Bedouin population were interviewed between November 2009 and January 2010. The prevalence of consanguineous marriages was 44.8 %. The most common type of spousal relationship was first cousins (65.7 % of all consanguineous marriages). The mean inbreeding coefficient was 0.0238. Factors significantly associated with consanguinity were less years of schooling (OR 0.94, 95 % CI (0.88–0.99), p = 0.02) and younger age at marriage of the wife (OR 0.90, 95 % CI (0.80–0.96), p = 0.0002). In conclusion, the rate of consanguineous marriages among Bedouins is very high, making this population at risk for congenital malformations and genetic diseases. Efforts should be directed at better education and provision of premarital and prenatal counseling on the health consequences of consanguineous marriages and the possibilities to lower those risks.


Bedouins Consanguinity Inbreeding coefficient Israel 


Compliance with ethics guidelines

We declare that the experiments comply with the current laws in Israel.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.


  1. Belmaker I (2010) The program to decrease the rates of infant mortality in the Bedouins in southern Israel. Regional Health Office, Southern Region, Ministry of Health, Israel, Annual report. (In Hebrew)Google Scholar
  2. Bittles AH (2001) Consanguinity and its relevance to clinical genetics. Clin Genet 60:89–98PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bromiker R, Glam-Baruch M, Gofin R, Hammerman C, Amitai Y (2004) Association of parental consanguinity with congenital malformations among Arab newborns in Jerusalem. Clin Genet 66:63–66PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Central Bureau of Statistics Israel. 2012. Statistical Abstract of Israel. Retrieved from
  5. Hamamy H (2012) Consanguineous marriages: preconception consultation in primary health care settings. J Community Genet 3:185–192PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Israel Center for Disease Control (2008) Health status of infant and children aged 0–6 in southern Israel. Regional Health Office, Southern Region, Ministry of Health 314. (In Hebrew).Google Scholar
  7. Jaber L, Bailey-Wilson JE, Haj-Yehia M, Hernandez J, Shohat M (1994) Consanguineous matings in an Israeli-Arab community. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 148:412–415PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Jaber L, Halpern GJ, Shohat M (1998) The impact of consanguinity worldwide. Community Genet 1:12–17PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Raz AE, Atar M (2004) Cousin marriage and premarital carrier matching in a Bedouin community in Israel: attitudes, service development and educational intervention. J Fam Plann Reprod Health Care 30:49–51PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Raz AE, Atar M, Rodnay M, Shoham-Vardi I, Carmi R (2003) Between acculturation and ambivalence: knowledge of genetics and attitudes towards genetic testing in a consanguineous Bedouin community. Community Genet 6:88–95PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Sharkia R, Zaid M, Athamna A, Cohen D, Azem A, Zalan A (2008) The changing pattern of consanguinity in a selected region of the Israeli Arab community. Am J Hum Biol 20:72–77PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Shohat T, Romano-Zelekha O (2011) Performance of prenatal genetic testing among pregnant woman in Israel. The Israel Center for Disease Control, Ministry of Health, 343. (In Hebrew)Google Scholar
  13. Tadmouri GO, Nair P, Obeid T, Al Ali MT, Al Khaja N, Hamamy HA (2009) Consanguinity and reproductive health among Arabs. Reprod Health 8:6–17Google Scholar
  14. Vardi-Saliternik R, Friedlander Y, Cohen T (2002) Consanguinity in a population sample of Israeli Muslim Arabs, Christian Arabs and Druze. Ann Hum Biol 29:422–431PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Weitzman D, Shoham-Vardi I, Elbedour K, Belmaker I, Siton Y, Carmi R (2000) Factors affecting the use of prenatal testing for fetal anomalies in a traditional society. Community Genetics 3:61–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wasef Na’amnih
    • 1
  • Orly Romano-Zelekha
    • 1
  • Ahmed Kabaha
    • 1
  • Liza Pollack Rubin
    • 2
    • 3
  • Natalya Bilenko
    • 4
    • 5
  • Lutfi Jaber
    • 6
  • Mira Honovich
    • 7
  • Tamy Shohat
    • 1
    • 8
  1. 1.Israel Center for Disease Control, Ministry of HealthGertner Institute, Sheba Medical CenterTel HashomerIsrael
  2. 2.Department of Maternal, Child and Adolescent HealthPublic Health Services, Ministry of HealthSafedIsrael
  3. 3.School of Public HealthUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael
  4. 4.Department of Epidemiology and Health Services Evaluation, Faculty of Health SciencesBen-Gurion University of the NegevBeershebaIsrael
  5. 5.District Health Office, Southern DistrictMinistry of HealthBeershebaIsrael
  6. 6.The Bridge to Peace Community Pediatric CenterTaibeIsrael
  7. 7.Public Health NursingMinistry of HealthJerusalemIsrael
  8. 8.Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Sackler School of MedicineTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael

Personalised recommendations