Wādi an-Naʿam is the largest unrecognized village in Israel, located 4 km. south of the city of Be’er Sheva, alongside route 40, with about 13,000 inhabitants. The village is home to more than 20 different families that belong to the Al-Azazmeh tribe -most of whom are internally displaced, having been removed from the area of the western Negev and the rest lived in the area prior to 1948. The village was established in the early 1950s. Majority of the inhabitants do not have ownership claims to the land in the village. In 1974 the construction of the industrial area ‘Ramat Hovav’ began nearby the village – a large chemical industry zone, also used as a toxic waste disposal site. The village derives its name from the plane area where it is located, which is also called Wādi an-Naʿam. In the 90s, a power plant was established among the village’s houses, which has even been expended in recent years.
The village has a clinic and a center for family health, which were opened following an appeal to the Supreme Court. But since these facilities are located at the margins of the village, most of the inhabitants travel to the township of Šgīb as-Salām, about 15 km from the village, to obtain treatment. There are two elementary schools in the village, all integrated with the intermediate school system, and two kindergarten clusters, all located in the center of the village. There is another elementary school situated at the margins of the village. These educational institutions serve about 3,000 children, most of whom travel great distances in unpaved roads. Because the shuttles to and from the schools are unregulated, arrival and departure from the school becomes dangerous and unsafe, and have even caused the death of several children in the past. High school students are studying in the town of Šgīb as-Salām. On the eve of the 2013 school year (September), the Ministry of Education announced the closure of village schools, but they remained open as the local parent committee fought an ongoing battle with the Ministry of Education to immediately improve conditions in existing institutions that suffer from overcrowding, lack of cleanliness and rickety infrastructure that pose a danger to children’s well-being. The parent committee also filed a number of applications for the establishment of a high school, but the State agreed only in the condition that the villagers move to the southern neighborhood of Šgīb as-Salām.
The village has several connecting points to the main water pipe along road 40, from where the inhabitants themselves draw their pipes. They acquire their water from Mekorot (Israel’s national water company) at the high price of LIS 8.6 per cubic meter. Since the water pressure is low, those residing farther from the road are forced to carry water with tanks, at a much higher rate and of poor quality. The village is not connected to the national electricity grid and uses mostly solar panels for obtaining power. Above the village there are several power-lines. The schools are also disconnected from the electric grid as, and are operated by generators. There are no paved roads in the village. Following a prolonged battle initiated by the school parents’ committee, a traffic light was constructed on road 40 to allow school buses to move safely in and out of the village.
Wādi an-Naʿam is an unrecognized village located within the security zone surrounding the industrial area of Ramat Hovav. The most imminent threat to the village is the expansion of the special security industry zone of Ramat Beka. At the back of the village is an experimental area of IMI, a company that specializes in the development and manufacture of firearms that cause much noise and damage to the village houses and schools as a result of the explosion generated by the blasts. Today, the plan is to move the IMI Experimental Area from Ramat Hasharon (which was privatized and owned by Elbit Company) to the Ramat Beka industrial area, thereby expanding it to endanger tens of thousands of residents. Beyond the health dangers, expanding the industrial area will result in severe building and development restrictions on about 1,000 residences in 5 additional villages, which will result in displacement of families from the area. Adalah and Bimkom associations filed their objections to the plan, which were rejected by planning authorities in Israel. The expected result is the evacuation of the said families, in addition to exceptional exposure to hazardous substances. Moreover, the village is within the health safety radius set around the Ramat Hovav industrial area, and defined as an uninhabitable zone.
While attempts were made to reach agreement between the residents and the authorities to transfer the village as one organic unit to another place, they all failed. During the time in which the issue was brought to the Supreme Court of justice, the Government of Israel approved the establishment of a new urban settlement for the villagers south of Šgīb as-Salām in 2016. The village’s inhabitants are opposed to this solution, as it is a crowded urban settlement that will not allow them to continue living their agricultural way of life. They claim that due to the factories’ treatment of nuisances and pollutants, the safety radius of Ramat Hovav can be reduced and the village can be recognized where it is today as an agricultural village.
The village of Wādi an-Naʿam is subjected to a policy of home demolitions and the destruction of crops.
* Additional forms of writing: Wādi al-Naʿam, Wādi AlNaʿam, Wādi Naʿam, Wādi Nam, Wādi Alnam