Recently, Sadaka’s ‘Community in Action’ members ventured out on a minibus, touring sites all over the south, from different unrecognized Bedouin villages all the way to Negev capital Beer Sheva. As they went from desert to desert, looking at the make shift buildings and villages, they learned more about the dire situation of its Bedouin population. Not only in many places are there no running water or electricity, adequate schools or transportation, but nearby there are environmental hazards affecting a large percentage of the local population. One of these environmental threats is none other than Ramat Hovav, Israel’s largest hazardous waste disposal facility, located just 12 kilometers from the Bedouin villages of Wadi al-Na’am and Tarabin al-Sane. In addition to this, the Bedouins share their land with nuclear reactors, 22 agro and petrochemical factories, an oil terminal, closed military zones, several quarries, a prison and two rivers of open sewage.”
While the news of the hazardous conditions of the Bedouins came at much alarm to the tour participants, the truth is that most people do not know much about their situation. As the tour continued, we stopped by the Council for Unrecognized Bedouin villages, an organization operating out of Beer Sheva and run mostly by Bedouins. It was here that some of the Bedouin organizers shared their personal experiences and provided more cultural and historical background behind the Bedouins’ struggle for adequate living conditions.
Overall, the tour was very informative and a real eye-opener because most of the participants were unaware of the dismal situation Bedouins are living in today. Most shocking to the participants was learning about how Bedouin land has been used as a toxic dumping ground as well as being next to other electrical and military hazardous zones. Jewish commune member Michael Yitzhaki was really happy for this opportunity to learn more, stating, “This tour was really informative. I had heard about the lack of electricity and running water before, but had no idea about Ramat Hovav’s presence in the south and its effect on the health of the Bedouin population.”
For more information on the situation of the Bedouins in the Negev, see March 2008 Human Rights Watch report.