Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What do the Bedouins have to do with Security Concerns in Israel?

For the next few posts, I want to introduce you to four new amazing places and groups of people that are part of Israel, trying to make Israel the best it can be in body and soul. My daughter Talie and I had the privilege of being in these places recently in Israel.

The first group I want you to meet is the Bedouins of El-Arakib (aka Al – Araqueeb). We met with the Sheik that headed the community on Friday, July 8, 2011. He spoke with us in a gentile and respectful manner. Rabbi Arik Ascherman, who has a friendship with the Sheik and took us there to meet with him and some of his fellow community members, remarked that usually he speaks much more about his community and his hopes for his children and grandchildren when he meets new groups. This time he spoke so much about his frustration about the repeated demolitions that have occurred in their village during the past year as a result of orders of the Israeli government. It is not difficult to observe that the time that has passed has worn him down and demoralized him on many levels.

The unrecognized Bedouin villages such as El-Arakib do not receive services from the State of Israel. This means no water, electricity, transportation, paved roads, schools or social services. Children have to walk miles in frigid weather as well as terribly and dangerously hot seasons to get their education. Their connection to their land is palpable. Their land, according to the Sheik that spoke with us in articulate Hebrew, IS their identity and their raison d’etre. Yet, this land and all that has been built on it has been destroyed and demolished 26 times during the past year. The residents have either had to flee to Rahat, a nearby recognized Bedouin village or have stood their ground, at one point, residing in the cemetery attached to their land with graves that date back as much as 100 years.

The Bedouins were once serving in the IDF, proud and loyal members of the Israeli state, and able to sustain themselves in a meaningful and respectful manner. Now, they are the poorest population in Israel, no longer serve in the IDF and feel angered, betrayed and bewildered. The problem cited by many is that somehow, containing this population and taking their land is related to Israeli concerns about external security. Sometimes, it feels as if all human rights issues are cast as an “external security threat” and that many in our community will not challenge this broad brush regarding how Israel is and should be held accountable regarding certain issues, this one regarding El-Arakib being one of them.

We were in the village one week after the twenty sixth time it was dismantled this year. I was thinking of the fact that these people who once considered themselves part of the fabric of Israel find it now nearly impossible for them to continue thinking of themselves in such a manner. There was anger, frustration, lack of understanding and despair as more and more of the people who had been tied to this land for so long had to go elsewhere, to Rahat and to other areas that would provide them with shelter, but not with THEIR land, the source of THEIR dignity and being.

The Bedouins are clearly struggling and this struggle is showing its signs in their own weariness and their own lack of understanding of how this present situation came to be. Yet, within the context of this, after hearing from the Sheik, we were introduced to three remarkable young Bedouin women who are involved in a college program with Israeli and Bedouin women who are working together to make a difficult situation better by addressing real problems within the Bedouin community. They are undertaking wonderful projects to better their community and strengthen its members. In one project, women were being taught to read and write and take care of daily business matters in their own lives. Formerly, these Bedouin women were not able to do things as simple as make a bank deposit, negotiate a utilities bill or complete other simple transactions we take for granted. In another project, a magazine is being produced that will inform, educate and empower the community. In a third project, children are being guided and educated in modern technology and means of communication. These projects are all to empower and to give skill sets to members of the Bedouin community. We were truly inspired by these three remarkable young Bedouin women, all from Rahat, and are sure we will hear more from them. I am proud to have met them, proud to have shared a few hours with them, and hopeful for their future and for those who will benefit from their work, their initiative and their inspiration. My prayer is that as time goes on and these young women empower others, those who have lost their own sense of purpose and being will be able to reclaim it and that Israel will “do better” by facilitating this.

1 comment:

  1. What is the official response to these acts? And why are they not receiving basic services? Does the government offer any explanation, even if a lame excuse? What do they mean by external security threats? Was there ever a problem with the Bedouins in this respect? I am really curious, not being provocative.