Umm Ratam is an unrecognized village situated south of the planned town of Ar’ara Banegev, north of road 25, and has about 1,000 inhabitants. It is a historical village that had been founded before the establishment of the state of Israel. Umm Ratam is named after the Rotem bush, ‘Ratam’ in Arabic, which was used by the villagers for fire. There are wells and ancient remains in the village.
Services and Infrastructure
There are no health or education services in the village. The inhabitants are forced to travel to the town of Dimona, about 20 minutes ride from the village, to obtain medical treatment. For their schooling, the pupils travel by bus to the Bedouin town of Ar’ara Banegev, about 20 minutes ride as well.
In order to connect their houses to water, the villagers are forced to draw pipes from a connection point on road 25, at their own costs. The flow of water is slight, and the inhabitants are forced to amend repeated explosions in the pipes. The village is not connected to the national electricity network despite the fact that a high voltage line runs above the village. For their electricity, the villagers acquire high-cost solar panels.
There are no paved roads in the village, and the inhabitants maintain the roads themselves. A dry river runs through the village, and on rainy days when it overflows, the villagers are trapped in the village and the children cannot travel to their schools.
The village of Umm Ratam is unrecognized. The inhabitants live on their lands and have ownership claims on them. According to the Be’er-Sheva Metropolitan Plan, the village area is divided into three zoning areas: an area designated as “desert landscape”, a “mining and excavation area”, and a “combined rural and agriculture view”. This implies that only a part of the village can be recognized, and there is still no guarantee that the government will grant such partial recognition.
These days, the Israeli Ministry of Construction and Housing promotes a new plan for the establishment of Jewish settlements on Route 25, two of the settlements, if they will be established, are planned to be built at the same place where Umm Ratam is situated today. House demolitions occur in the village and many of its houses received demolition orders in January 2020. The inhabitants wish to remain an agricultural village and request that the government recognizes the village in its present location.