Israel’s Negev Facing Alarming Changes

June 18, 2013 11:01 am 0 comments

Aerial view of Bedouin city in the northern Negev. Photo: Tzuriel Cohen-Arazi, Tazpit News Agency.

Although the Negev desert makes up 60 percent of the Israel’s land mass, it is a sparsely populated area in the south that holds only 8% of the country’s population. Home to the biblical Abraham and Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, there are approximately 700,000 people who live in the Negev today including over 200,00 in the desert’s capital Beer Sheva.

While the Negev is known for its natural beauty as well as its historical and archaeological sites, there are several factors that are changing the region’s scenery. According to Regavim, an Israeli NGO dedicated to preserving Israel’s state land and national properties, the Bedouin population’s construction of thousands of illegal buildings is spreading rapidly across the Negev.

“The area of illegal Bedouin expansion reaches up to 800,000 dunams (200,000 acres) in the northern Negev between Beer Sheva, Dimona and Arad,” stated Meir Deutsch, Regavim’s Regional Director to Tazpit News Agency during a recent tour of the region. “The Jewish population remains in much more concentrated areas like Beer Sheva. The Bedouins simply build wherever they want to.”

Aerial view of illegal Bedouin expansion in the northern Negev on a trip organized by Regavim. Photo: Tzuriel Cohen-Arazi, Tazpit News Agency.

“Israel’s backyard desert is in a terrible mess,” Deutsch says. “If Israel allows this building to continue, it will lose its sovereignty over the northern Negev.”

“Part of the problem is the rapidly expanding Bedouin population,” explains Deutsch. Bedouin families are large, averaging six to ten children and have one of the highest fertility rates in the world. While Israel bans polygamy, Bedouin men often marry two to three wives and can have families with as many as 25 children.

In 2008, Israel together with leading figures in the Bedouin community initiated a state program to address the phenomenon of Bedouin polygamy and its severely harmful implications on family structure.

It is estimated today that there are nearly 200,000 Bedouins living in the Negev, of which half reside in seven existing towns established by the Israeli government. The other half of the population lives in unauthorized communities with no municipal status on desert land that the Bedouins have never formally owned. Deutsch explains that 60,000 illegal structures have been built by Bedouins across the Negev and 2,000 new illegal structures are added every year. These areas are rampant with poverty, crime and lawlessness.

In addition, because the Bedouins are dispersed over extensive areas and not in permanent housing, they are not connected to Israel’s electricity grid or public services.

Aerial view of illegal Bedouin expansion in the northern Negev on a trip organized by Regavim. Photo: Tzuriel Cohen-Arazi, Tazpit News Agency.

Another major problem Deutsch pointed out is the collaboration between Sinai and Negev Bedouins who work together to smuggle in illicit drugs and weapons for terrorists, jeopardizing Israel’s security.

“There are solutions to these problems,” Deutsch tells Tazpit News Agency. “But it must begin with the government taking appropriate action to address these issues in an effective way. This hasn’t happened yet.”

“The illegal building has to stop. On Google Earth, anyone can see how the Bedouin communities in the northern Negev are continually expanding. If something isn’t done soon, the impact will be felt everywhere,” he added.

It is important to note that Bedouin citizens are a minority within the Arab minority in Israel. Most of the Bedouins in the Negev were nomads who originally came from Hejaz, a region in the northern Arabian peninsula and immigrated to Israel between the 14th and 18th centuries. Bedouins in northern and central Israel hail from the Syrian desert, with northern Bedouin tribes fighting alongside Israel during the 1948 War of Independence.

While much fewer Negev Bedouins serve in the IDF, an estimated two-thirds of their brethren living in northern Israel serve in the army as elite trackers and scouts along the country’s borders.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot is in negotiations to take on the female lead role in the remake of the 1959 classic Ben-Hur, according to The Hollywood Reporter. If the deal is finalized Gadot will play Esther, a slave and Ben-Hur’s love interest. Actor Jack Huston will star as the Jewish prince who is betrayed into slavery by his childhood friend Messala, played by Toby Kebbell. Ben-Hur fights for his freedom and vengeance with the help of Morgan Freeman’s character, who trains Ben-Hur how to win at chariot-racing. [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    JNS.org – Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie are the American dream. So why do two young men who have built their lives in Israel have a GoFundMe crowd-funding webpage with the urgent message that they need $3,000 to travel to the U.S. to watch the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles square off for Major League Baseball’s (MLB) American League championship? Brothers Naftali and Yoni Schwartz, 27 and 25, respectively, are Kansas City natives. Even though they made aliyah with their [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Some 3,000 years ago, King David probably never imagined cars racing at 240 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour) through the ancient capital of the Jewish people. But on Monday and Tuesday, October 6-7, thousands of Israelis lined the streets to watch Porsche, Audi, and Ferrari race cars fly through the capital against the backdrop of the Tower of David, the Old City Walls, and other city landmarks. The second annual non-competitive Jerusalem Formula One Road Show had been [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James expressed interest in visiting Israel someday, local news site Cleveland.com reported on Sunday. Speaking to Israeli reporters before the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason debut against Maccabi Tel Aviv, the NBA star said he had never visited the Jewish state but “I want to look forward to going there if I get an opportunity to.” When asked by an Israeli reporter if there was “any chance that LeBron James and Cleveland comes to Tel Aviv,” the athlete said [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    A Florida-based Chabad rabbi put former basketball star, U.S. Congressman Curt Clawson to shame on the court when the two faced off one-on-one recently. A YouTube video, posted online on Tuesday, shows Rabbi Fishel Zaklos of Chabad of Naples shooting hoops with the Florida politician, who played basketball in high school and at Purdue University in Indiana. The game took place in the parking lot of the Chabad Jewish center run by Zaklos. During the 1-minute clip, Zaklos scores two impressive [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada David Blatt’s Cleveland Cavaliers Rout Maccabi Tel Aviv, 107-80

    David Blatt’s Cleveland Cavaliers Rout Maccabi Tel Aviv, 107-80

    JNS.org – Less than five months after leading Maccabi Tel Aviv to its sixth European basketball title, David Blatt, now the head coach of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, routed his former team in an exhibition game on Sunday, with the Cavaliers dominating Maccabi 107-80 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The 20,562 fans in attendance witnessed Lebron James’s first appearance in a Cavaliers uniform since he left the club in free agency for the Miami Heat four years ago. [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Jewish New York Giants Guard Plans to Fast on Yom Kippur

    Jewish New York Giants Guard Plans to Fast on Yom Kippur

    New York Giants offensive guard Geoff Schwartz said on Wednesday that he will not eat anything between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday in observation of Yom Kippur, ESPN reported. “If I was playing, I wouldn’t fast, because I’ve got to be able to fuel myself to play,” said the Jewish athlete, who is on short-term leave due to a toe injury. “But it’s not that tough, really. I’ll eat dinner at 5:00 Friday, then I’ll go to services and I’ll just [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.