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 *


  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW) – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →

Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.