At 5:00am hundreds of police accompanied six bulldozers and demolished 17 homes and three animal shacks in the village of Twail Abu-Jarwal. The entire village is demolished. People are sitting by the piles of tin that were their modest dwellings and wondering what to do, where to go - even their family cannot host them, as no one has a house standing.
This is the fourth time this year that the government demolished in this village. This time they got it “right” - no house is left standing.
But the villagers have nowhere to go to. They lived on the outskirts of the Bedouin town of Laqia, the old folk paid for plots of land to build homes in the 1970s, they still hold on the receipt, hoping someday to receive the plots. For the last 30 years they have been living on land belonging to others, in shacks, the housing becoming ever more crowded, until there was no room left for another baby. They turned to the government for a solution - the option for joining the rest of the residents of Laqia, in a regular house, on a regular plot of land. But the authorities had no options for them. The owners of the land on which they were living requested that they leave - 30 years is enough. So eventually they left back to their own ancestral land - only a couple of miles south of Laqia - by the old ruined school, by their old cemetery. The adult sons built their old mother a modest brick home. The rest built tin shacks.
A year ago the government came and destroyed several houses - including the brick home. Some of the people of Twail Abu Jarwal rebuilt, some moved into more crowded homes with their adult siblings. The government came nine months later and demolished seven more homes. Again, some rebuilt their shacks, some moved in with family. The government came back last month and just to harass, uprooted fences, holding the sheep. And now they came in order to make sure the work is complete.
Israel’s Minister of Interior, Roni Bar-On, two days ago was invited to give answers to the Internal Affairs Committee in the Knesset, as to what solutions the government is advancing in order to solve the issue of the unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev, and why the government is demolishing homes while these people have no “legal” options for building homes. Bar-On claimed that everything is just fine, he is doing all he can to deal with this issue, but a criminal must be punished, and therefore all the “illegal” Bedouin homes in the Negev must be demolished. He claimed that as far as he is concerned, there are not enough demolitions in the Negev. And now he has proved that he is a man of his word - 17 homes demolished in one foul swoop.
Of the 150,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel living in the Negev, over 50% live in villages that the government as policy has left “unrecognized”, meaning that there are no options for building permits, as well as running water, electricity, roads, sewer systems and trash removal, additionally there are very minimal education and health facilities. This policy’s aim is to force the Bedouins off their ancestral lands and to concentrate the Bedouins in urban townships, regardless of their wishes or their culture. However, there are also no options for living in the concentration towns the government has built, as there are no available plots of land for homes, as in the case of the families of the Twail abu-Jarwal village. Therefore the government can “legally” demolish the homes of 80,000 members of this community, while they cannot build one “legal” home.
We need help! Both financial and political.
The Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages is an NGO and was created in 1997 as the representative body for the residents of the 45 Bedouin unrecognized villages in the Israeli Negev. Hssein al-Rafaia is the elected head of the RCUV. For more information, please contact Yeela Raanan, 054 7487005, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, Civil Society Activities Coordinator, Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages.