Six years of struggle in al-Araqib

“Today we say to the world that we are going to remain on this land,” says one young resident of the village of al-Araqib.

Al-Araqib, in the Naqab desert in the south of present-day Israel, has been razed 101 times already.

It is one of several villages in the area not recognized by the Israeli government, which also means it lacks basic services like electricity and water.

The people of al-Araqib are resisting efforts to push them off their land and bury it under a forest planted by the Jewish National Fund, a government-backed Zionist organization that works to colonize land inhabited by Palestinians.

Each time the village is destroyed, its remaining residents rebuild it. But where it was once home to 35 families, only 20 people in a handful of tents remain.

The village recently marked six years since the first time al-Araqib was razed.

It was a celebration as much as a commemoration – a celebration of steadfastness.

Last month, several residents of the village were detained after they tried to prevent bulldozers from leveling their land.

They say that the tree planting should not move ahead when the courts have yet to determine the status of the land.

Silvia Boarini is a photojournalist based in Jerusalem. She is the co-director of Empty Desert, a documentary on al-Araqib.