On Monday, more than 500 Bedouin and Jews protested the ongoing destruction of Al-Araqib, an unrecognized Bedouin village in Israel's Negev Desert. The Israel Lands Authority has destroyed the entire village three times within the past three weeks leaving residents exposed to the desert sun at the height of the summer.
After each demolition, residents and activists rebuild in the hope that they will be able to live in their homes in peace and dignity. Each time so far their hopes have been dashed by renewed destruction of their homes.
The message of the protest, led by SHATIL, the Negev Coexistence Forum and other organizations, was "stop the house demolitions!"
Al-Araqib formerly consisted of 30 to 40 makeshift buildings--home to some 300 people. Ownership of the land where Al-Araqib sits is disputed and is currently being litigated. The State, however, is not waiting for the completion of the legal process and has already sent battalions of police officers numerous times to destroy the village, uprooting trees and carting off the villagers' possessions.
Sultan Abu Abeid, co-director of SHATIL's Be'er Sheva office, remarked, "We are citizens of the state. We are asking for our rights. We are looking for a negotiated solution and not one forced upon us."
According to Sultan, the rally shows the potential for joint Jewish-Arab work in creating change. The plan is to make the rally a weekly occurrence until the State stops the demolitions and changes its policies regarding Negev Bedouin from one of confrontation to one of rapprochement.