|Na Lehakir: Recognition for Unrecognized Bedouin Villages|
|Written by Ruby Ong|
SHATIL has long been committed to empowering Bedouins living in the South of Israel. One recent front in the campaign is a newly developed website Na Lehakir (please recognize), an initiative of SHATIL’s Be'er Sheva office. The website promotes governmental recognition of Bedouin villages. According to Moshe Balmas, the editor of the website, this issue has not received sufficient attention in the Israeli press. "Na Lehakir was established to give the unrecognized villages the visibility they require and to support the activists working in the field.” Balmas said. “Our mission is to inform the public about what is happening, when it is happening."
The Negev Bedouins are impoverished – more than two-thirds live below the poverty line – and are subject to a bewildering and contradictory maze of governmental policies. Some 80,000 Bedouins live in unrecognized villages, where they have little political clout, few employment opportunities, sub-standard education, and often no electricity or running water.
While life in the unrecognized villages is difficult at best, the Bedouin are now facing an accelerated destruction of these villages. The Israel Lands Authority has repeatedly torn down the entire village of Al-Araqib – an action that robs the Bedouin of their homes and possessions as well as their dignity. According to Dr. Yeela Raanan, a home in an unrecognized village can be demolished at any time. "This is the government’s logic behind the policy of non-recognition of the Bedouin villages in the Negev: with non-recognition, there is no procedure the villagers can follow in order to receive building permits for houses in their villages, thus making all their homes 'illegal' and subject to demolition."
The website also serves as a bulletin board to publicize Na Lehakir's proactive work. This past Saturday, Na Lehakir organized a visit to Al-Araqib to express solidarity with the residents. One hundred people took part, with three arrested, including Prof. Gadi Algazi of Tel-Aviv University. Plans are underway for a major demonstration in Be'er Sheva on February 24th, with Jews and Arabs from all over the Negev showing their support for recognition for the Bedouin villages. Na Lehakir will publish details about the demonstration as soon as they have been finalized. We hope that in late February Na Lehakir will report that the demonstration was a success.