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Trees growing in the desert

March 10, 2013

Today we drove down south to the Negev desert to learn about the Bedouin.  The Negev desert has been part of Israel since 1948.  Many Bedouin have been driven from the Negev over the years, however the small fraction of the Bedouin who remained are full Israeli citizens – they vote, they can be elected to parliament, they are entitled to sit in parliament, have equal access to educational services etc etc.

We met Haia who works with the Regional Council of Unrecognised Villages. She is a local Israeli Jew who discussed with me the weaknesses of Mabo (yeah, the Australian Indigenous Mabo case) and the differences and similarities of colonialism around the world. She is a wise and learned Elder who I was so inspired to meet, she has been campaigning and wall_schoolprotesting with the Bedouin for twenty years.

We visited a school which is one of the largest (number of students) in Israel. A few years ago there were 1600 students in it, it was overcrowded and illegal. The Israeli court ruled there should be two schools. So the Israeli government put a wall down the middle of the existing school and called it two schools. Now there are 2,500 students who have virtually no access to computers and crowded classrooms. After year nine, they take a bus bus 10km to high school where they go to school with Israeli Jews who have had a computer to themselves virtually their whole lives and gone to a school that does not depend on solar power. There are no prizes for guessing the drop out rate of Bedouin youth is quite high compared to the average Israeli population.
As a side note, the next time some one goes on about the repressive state of women in the IWD_eventMiddle East, the school was at the same time hosting a large gathering of locals and people who were bussed in and drove two hours to attend a rally for International Women’s Day. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it Department of Education NSW, where in six years as a teacher the most IWD got was a mention in the hardly read newsletter.
After the school we visited a Bedouin Valley. The Valley, amongst other things grows barley for the Bedouin who use it as feed during the long dry months of summer. Most of the Bedouin villages are “unrecognised” by the Israeli state. They receive no electricity, expensive private water and other structural forms of harassment. Tough eh? Yeah, the Israeli government also sprays round up and plows up their fully grown barley so the Bedouin lose their economic income as herders of sheep and goats. They used to spray from an aircraft until that was deemed illegal by some court, so now once a year they truck in and spray the barley crops so the barley doesn’t grow. The worse thing is, I haven’t told you the worse thing yet.Bed_Barley
We then visited Al Araqeeb which has been demolished more than 40 times!  The Israeli government has deemed the village as ‘unrecognised’, however the Bedouin who have lived on the lands for centuries decide they’ll stay put. Israel sends in bulldozers and 1500 troops to flatten the village. Bedouins decide to fight for their land and rebuild so they can make a living their traditional way, maintain their identity and sense of belonging. Israel demolishes. Repeat 38+ more times.
At the end of the talk with the Sheikh (the head of the village) I walk with his son through the bulldozed ruins of his village. I ask if he used to have a home here. He starts to tear up as he explains “Three years ago my wife and kids had a nice home and their own beds to sleep in. Now they sleep on the Earth and sometimes the sky is their roof, I am ashamed.” We Greg_azizboth cried for a bit and unprompted he says “But I feel deep down that things are changing” He points to an olive tree. In bulldozing the village, the Israeli’s destroyed over 300 olive trees. Some have come back, small shoots coming through the ground. “I am like this olive tree, my family can come back too!”
This man has literally been through hell. Several times he has watched his whole life be destroyed and he has hope.
What excuse have I got for my inaction?I end today feeling hope too.

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One Comment
  1. Heartbreaking to listen to the Beduins and to read about your day.
    I have been there before Israel started to demolish Al Araqibe.

I would be honored if you espoused your narrative here.....

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