Direct Action in the Unrecognized Villages
Once every few months we hold ‘activity days’ in unrecognized villages in the Negev. These activity days aim at raising public awareness to the difficulties that plague the Negev Bedouin community, and protesting against the villagers’ harsh living conditions. Such activities have included organizing water convoys from Israel’s central region to unrecognized villages, renovating kindergartens, connecting unrecognized villages to the national water supply network, constructing access roads to villages and more. All ‘activity days’ entail joint effort of the villagers and Forum members, along with dozens of volunteers from all over Israel.
Solidarity visit to Al-Arakib – February 2011 (above).
Solidarity visit to Al-Arakib – March 2011 (above).
Marching with the people of Al-Arakib in the second human-rights march in Tel-Aviv – December 2010 (above).
Land day in Al-Arakib – March 2011 (above).
Protesting in front of the JNF bulldozers in the village of Al-Arakib, March 2011 (above).
Marching in Tel-Aviv in support of the democracy in Israel – March 2011 (above).
The Forum confronts a whole line of government acts that constitute an essential violation of the Negev Bedouins’ rights, the epitome of which has been delivering demolition orders and the actual demolition of many homes in unrecognized villages such as Twail Abu Jarwal, Um Al Hiran, Wadi Al Na’am and Al Atrash (for the complete list please see demolition journal on our site www.dukium.org). No less grave has been the plowing of fields just before harvest time, aimed at destroying crops. In response to this, the Forum organizes visits to many of the sites where demolition and other forms of destruction had taken place and encounters with the local victims for dialogue, support and assistance. The Forum is also active in the public sphere, in an effort to create vehement public protest against such actions, and in organizing letter campaigns to the authorities, protesting house demolition and police brutality towards the residents during the demolitions. In the village Twail Abu Garwal and in Al-Arkib we had a special project, together with Recognition Forum, where immediate assistance was given to the people who were inflicted by repetitious house demolitions.
Every year we hold joint celebrations of several Moslem and Jewish holidays. Thus Ramadan, Tu Bishvat and other holidays have been celebrated by the Arab and Jewish members of the Forum and guests.
Each year we organize an art festival “Neighbours and Partners” in the Peace Tent in Rahat. In May 2008 the festival hosted Arab and Jewish artists such as the debka dance group “Kanzaman” from Rahat, the hip-hop group “System Ali” from Jaffa, the Blues group “Pecham” and more. Also in the festival there were workshops for children as well as stands for selling arts and crafts such as weaving and needle work.
Arab-Jewish Student Partnership
The Negev population consists largely of young people. Thousands of students, both Arab and Jews, come to the area to study, most of them in the Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva. However, contact and familiarity between the two groups is quite limited since wide gaps of culture, language, formal education and socio-economic conditions keep them apart. The Negev’s young population is the most significant human resource for the region’s development and future. The involvement of young people in activities aimed to promote coexistence and acquaintance with the different populations as well as taking part in actions on topics with relevance to the Negev is of major importance. The Arab-Jewish Student Partnership at Ben Gurion University, sponsored by the Negev Coexistence Forum, was established in 2004. In 2009 we started a project “one for one class” in which teams of Arab and Jewish students teach each other English and Arabic. We have also started a campaign for equality on the Ben Gurion campus involving the following issues: Site of the university in Arabic; increasing the number of Arabic keyboards; appropriate worship place for the Muslim students; signposting in Arabic in the campus.
Social Justice Network
The Forum works closely with local and national organizations that have interest in the issues concerning the Negev. One of the coalitions that we formed in 2002 was the “Recognition Forum” which aimed to achieve recognition for the unrecognized villages. Recognition Forum includes the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), Taayush – Arab-Jewish Partnership, the Association of Forty, Rabbis for Human Rights, Women’s Coalition for Peace, Bustan, Yesh Gvul, Gush Shalom, Negev Coexistence Forum and New Profile.
Within the framework of Recognition Forum we act against the government’s policy and plans for the unrecognized villages and strive to promote alternative plans for recognition for these villages. Our activity includes solidarity visits against house demolitions, tree planting, etc.
Furthermore, the Forum also has working ties with organizations such as Sawt al Aaamel (The Workers’ Voice), Kav La’Oved, Social Workers for Peace, the Nabila Associations, the Drijat al Ahiliya Association, the Association for the Support and Protection of Bedouin Rights, Community Advocacy, the Environmental Justice Clinic at the Tel Aviv University Law School, Commitment, Shiluv (Conservative Community in the Negev), the Democratic School in Arad, Physicians for Human Rights, and the Local Committees of the Unrecognized Villages.
The Forum works hand in hand with these organizations as well as on its own in presenting petitions to the High Court of Justice, organizing tours, protest actions, etc.
All of the above organizations are important bodies that function in areas similar to the Forum’s, and their agendas are very similar to ours. The Forum is unique in its being an Arab-Jewish organization rooted in various Negev communities, among them the academic community around Ben Gurion University and the Negev colleges, the Arab community in Beer Sheva, communities in the unrecognized villages, township residents and various other Negev dwellers. This special social and geographical location enables the Forum to constitute an important junction for the activity of state-wide organizations and movements in the Negev on the one hand, and to share local perspective of Arab-Jewish cooperation with the rest of the country on the other.
Being anchored in the various Negev communities, the Forum is a local grassroots body for Arabs and Jews alike. The contribution of the Forum to the various coalitions stems, among other things, from this fact and from the Forum’s ability to dialogue with diverse populations and mobilize them into action.