Bīr Haddāj is a Bedouin village located west of Route 40, close to Kibbutz Revivim. Residents of the village are members of the Al-Azazmeh tribe, who were relocated by the military regime to the area near Neot Hovav, but in the 1990s decided to return to the area adjacent to their historical home. Today, Bīr Haddāj is home to around 6,000 people. In 1999 the Israeli government decided to recognize the village, and today it is one of the villages in the Neve Midbar Regional Council. The village’s name comes from the name of an ancient water-well in the original village (close to the village’s current location) called Be’er Chayil, or in Arabic, Bīr Haddāj. Majority of its residents make their living from farming and herding of sheep and camels.
Within the recognized village of Bīr Haddāj there are two elementary schools, one high school, four mandatory kindergartens, one preschool, and in 2019 the first daycare center was opened. There is a clinic and a mother-and-child health station which supply medical services to its inhabitants.
Despite the fact that the village was recognized by the State of Israel in 1999, the village’s houses were never connected to the national electricity grid, and its residents must make do with solar panels. The homes in the village are not connected to the national water system and villagers acquire their water from ‘Memi HaNegev’ water supplier. However, they are forced to lay-down their own infrastructure and at their own cost. The houses in the village are not connected to the waste removal system. Garbage removal services do not operate in Bīr Haddāj, except for within the school property. Excluding the one paved road leading to the school, all of the other roads in the village are unpaved.
Although residents of the village do not receive municipal services, they have begun to receive demand for the payment of municipal taxes (Arnona in Hebrew), which have accumulated to tens of thousands of Shekels in recent years.
Bīr Haddāj has a “blue line” from 2003, which defines the village’s boundaries. However, in the past 15 years, no detailed master plan has been authorised – making it impossible for the residents to request building permits.
The villagers request to remain in the area and have it declared as an agricultural village, but the State is insisting on regulating the village on only one third of its area. In 2015, the Government of Israel approved the establishment of a new Jewish settlement, Neve Gurion. The settlement was planned, in part, on the land of Bīr Haddāj and the villagers’ homes. However, in 2018, the Planning Administration decided to halt the establishment of Neve Gurion.
In 2017, the Authority for the Development and Settlement of the Bedouin in the Negev (otherwise known as the Bedouin Authority) declared that its “regulatory efforts” in the village had failed, calling for increased enforcement and demolition of houses in the villagers. In the absence of planning Bīr Haddāj is subject to the house demolition policy, and there are demolition orders pending over some of its houses. In addition, many villagers are left outside of the blue line.
Residents are eager and interested in further planning for the village as an agricultural locality, so that they can continue to maintain their traditional way of life on their historic lands.