As the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran prepares to be replaced by a Jewish town with a near-identical name, its residents are offering solutions based on real co-existence.
By Ariel Dloomy
In July 2007 I witnessed one of the saddest events of my life. Hundreds of security force personnel descended upon the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in order to evict the residents and demolish their homes. The police removed cradles together with the infants while bulldozers razed the homes and uprooted olive trees from the yards. Dozens of Jewish youth hired by the demolition contractor loaded residents’ personal belongings into containers that were then transported from the area. When everything was packed up, the youth danced in front of the stunned residents while chanting, “this is the new Zionism.”
Eight years and many court hearings have passed, but the threat of demolition and eviction lingers over the residents’ heads. Currently, this threat is more tangible than ever after the High Court recently rejected the appeal of the community’s 700 residents. This decision enables the government to proceed with its plans to forcibly relocate the residents of Umm al-Hiran residents to the neighboring village of Hura, while building the Jewish town of Hiran atop the ruins of the old village. This decision was unaffected by the mayor of the Hura local council, who said that his village does not have room for the evicted residents. The residents’ claims that in 1956, the military governor of the area ordered the tribe to move to its current location, after it had already forcibly removed them from the area of Wadi Zubaleh, near Kibbutz Shuval.
Just a few kilometers from the village, where the Yatir Forest road begins, 25 Jewish families from the Hiran Group are living in a temporary camp, awaiting “final authorization” to settle on the land Umm al-Hiran. According to the group’s website, “the intention is to build a settlement designated for the national-religious community in the northern Negev Desert as part of establishing a continuity of Jewish settlements in the area.” These descriptions are in complete contradiction to the state’s claim to the High Court that the new settlement will be a “general” (non-denominational) one without unique characteristics, and will not be closed to any potential resident based on religious affiliation. Thus, once again, the story of Umm al-Hiran epitomizes the national-ethnic struggle over land and settlement...Read More