Within a context of crisis in the Negev: The only center dealing with Arab-Jewish discourse in Be’er Sheva city has been evacuated
After fifteen years of Arab Jewish activities in what used to be the only joint cultural space in the Negev, the Be’er Sheva municipality decided to vacate the Multaka-Mifgash.
“Precisely now that the Negev is crying out for a conciliatory discourse that will engage the population in a joint struggle – the municipality decided under extreme pressure that the place is unnecessary”; this paved the way to start a mass fundraising campaign to fund a new space.
Against the background of the civil crisis in the Negev, the community and cultural center that worked for years to promote grassroots solutions to the conflict in the south, was closed under the auspices of the Be’er Sheva Municipality. After fifteen years of Arab-Jewish activities, the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality (NCF) was forced to vacate the only Arab-Jewish cultural space in the city of Be’er Sheva.
“The Multaka has been like a second home for me for years. A place where you can really meet, get to know and create Jews and Arabs together with an open heart and mind. A modest, pleasant and unique space in the Negev,” says Eve Tendler, former Field and Communications coordinator at NCF. The organization launched a crowdfunding campaign to enable the rental of a new place for NCF’s activities in Be’er Sheva.
As early as 2014, under threat of closure, the municipality began interfering in the content of cultural events and censoring content that seemed inappropriate to it, demanding that only content that was “non-problematic” be discussed – similar reasons used by the Jerusalem municipality to close “Barbur Gallery”. Because the Negev Coexistence Forum refused to comply with the municipality’s request, the municipality petitioned the district court. Subsequently, NCF appealed to the Supreme Court that ruled that the municipality is not allowed to interfere with the content transmitted in its properties.
The Municipality’s decision to demand the payment of retroactive local taxes in an astronomical amount is tyrant and illegal, constituting a new record in the Be’er Sheva municipality’s struggle against freedom of expression.
“The Multaka allowed the residents of the Negev/Naqab to have an in-depth dialogue accompanied with joint activities to promote the rights and lifestyle of indigenous Arab Bedouin residents in the Naqab. Although these issues have risen to the Israeli political agenda, they have been eliminated from the plans of the Municipality and the city of Beer Sheva, where over dozens of essential processes have been launched for the wellbeing of the Naqab’s residents. This dialogue between communities is more important than ever, especially during the crisis that the Negev is currently going through” Odeliya Matter, Field and Communications coordinator at the Negev Coexistence Forum.
The organization decided to appeal to their community and launch a fundraising campaign. The goal of NIS 100,000 will allow the organization to rent a property to reopen the Multaka. So far and in less than 24 hours, NIS 25,000 have been raised. “This is the place where I grew up and started my journey. This project must continue.” Ratab Abu-Krinat, coordinator of the Social Resilience project at Ajeec, and a social activist for the advancement of the rights of Arab Bedouins in the Negev.
For more details please contact Elianne Kremer, NCF’s Research and International Advocacy coordinator at +972 (0) 53-529-3829 or [email protected]