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Photo essay: Al-Araqib Bedouin's ongoing struggle for their land

Photos by: Oren Ziv, Yotam Ronen, and Keren Manor/Activestills.org

Children of Al Araqib walk through the debris of their demolished houses, on the way to their newly built shacks.

Al-Araqib is one of the 45 “unrecognized” Bedouin villages in the Negev desert of southern Israel. Since July 27, 2010, the village has been demolished 39 times. Despite daily harassment, ongoing house demolitions and the Israeli government’s determination to forcefully transfer the Bedouin population out of their historical land, the residents of Al-Araqib continue to struggle.

A man irrigating his newly planted olives trees after Israeli authorities demolished houses and uprooted olive trees in Al-Araqib.

Following the 1948 War, the Bedouin population in the Negev (Naqab) Desert, in southern Israel, was forced to change its way of life. Prior to that time, Bedouins wandered freely in the deserts which are now under Israeli, Egyptian, and Jordanian jurisdiction.

Sheikh Sayah al-Turi rides his horse during a protest calling the Israeli authorities to recognize the village of Al-Araqib.

In 1953, the Israeli army ordered many of the Bedouins, among them those in the village of Al-Araqib, to abandon their lands for six months during which time the army performed military exercises. To this day, the right of the Bedouins to return to their land has not been recognized.

Al-Araqib children sit in a shack used as a classroom.

In contrast to their traditional nomadic origins, many Bedouins were moved to permanent urban settlements where they suffered from unemployment, crime and an inability to adjust to an urban way of life.

A view of Al-Araqib in December 2009.

In the 1950s, a small number of Bedouin managed to return to their land in the village of Al-Araqib and were joined by a number of families in the late 1990s who understood that if they did not return, they would lose the right to their land. Because the villages are considered “unrecognized”, they have no infrastructure: no electricity or water, no health or educational services, no road or sewage systems.

Israeli policemen march through the village of Al Araqib during the first demolition of the village in July 2010.

The Israeli authorities have made the lives of the dwellers impossible. Those who returned suffer from the constant destruction of their dwellings, classified as illegal, and of their agricultural crops.

A bulldozer of the Israeli Land Administration tears down a house during the third demolition of Al-Araqib in August 2010.

An uprooted olive tree in Al-Araqib, one day after the village was demolished in July, 2010.

Members of the al-Turi family are forcefully evicted from their homes by Israeli policemen in July 2010.

Members of the al-Turi family gather their belongings after the demolition of their home.

In 2009, the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael) began planting the “Ambassadors Forest” on the lands of Al-Araqib in an effort to complete the authority’s appropriation of the land, and to prevent the dwellers from using the land for housing or farming.

An Israeli solider plants a tree donated by the Jewish National Fund on Al-Araqib lands.

But the residents of Al-Araqib are not the only Bedouin citizens of Israel facing forced displacement. According to Mairav Zonszein:

The Israel Lands Administration (ILA) claims the Bedouin are trespassing on state land, but the issue is still being fought in court proceedings over land ownership. While the residents do not have official land deeds, they do have documents from the Ottoman era showing their ancestors purchased the land in 1906. The state insists the land was appropriated in 1954 such that court findings regarding ownership before then are irrelevant anyway.

Children sit atop belongings that were recovered from their home, which was demolished by Israeli authorities.

The issue of Al-Arakib is part of a larger story concerning 35 unrecognized villages inside Israel. According to a 2011 report by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, approximately half the Bedouin population in the Negev, about 90,000 people—live in quasi-recognized or unrecognized villages similar to al-Arakib. The government adoption of the Prawer Plan last September calls for the uprooting of 30,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel and their relocation to established Bedouin towns (with financial compensation), thereby denying the community’s connection to the land and way of life.


Members of the al-Turi family rebuild a structure after it was demolished by Israeli authorities.

Click here to see more photos of Al-Araqib at Activestills.org

Activestills is a collective of Israeli, international and Palestinian photographers, united by a conviction that photography is a vehicle for political and social change. To stay updated on our latest images, like Activestills on Facebook  or follow @activestills on Twitter. You can also visit our flickr photostream.

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    1. I dobut anything can be done. There are not enough of them to “matter.” The same thing happened to Native Americans, at many location, at many times.
      I cannot conceive of residences demolished 39 times. Humanity is not always a good word.

      Reply to Comment
    2. AriB

      Full of untruths. Firstly take a look on google earth and you will see not 35 or 45 unrecognized Bedouin villages but closer to 2000. 35 ( + 10 Abu Basma) sounds like something that can be handled that is why it is bandied about by 972 and other sites such as ACRI, NCF etc. but it is 100% incorrect. Just take a look at google earth between Beersheva. Arad and Dimona and you will find 200,000 acres covered by Bedouin’s and I am not talking about grazing lands.
      Specifically Al Araqib, the photos not shown here are the large houses of the so called residents in Lod, Kfar Kassam and Rahat. In the beersheva district court all of this evidence was provided that’s why the verdict was that the Bedouin of Al Araqib are illegal squatters involved 100% in a land grab. Obviously 972 isn’t interested in this side of the story…….

      Reply to Comment
    3. Jehudah Ben-Israel

      Question: Are things done legally or not? Are they done based on the Sept. 1995 Interim Agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which is totally based on international law?
      If the answer is yes, and things are done legally, it is not clear to this poster what the problem, and they obviously are done legally.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Jehudah Ben-Israel

      P.S. And, if this is true about the Bedouins of the Hebron hills, it is even more accurate about citizens of the state of Israel: Does the government act legally or not, within its democratic mandate to govern…?? Of course it does!!

      Reply to Comment
    5. Palestinian

      Legally ? I take over your house ,keep you in the basement and I come up with my own rules that you have to abide with ? thats a joke ,isnt it ?!

      Reply to Comment
    6. CigarButNoNice

      @Greg Pollock
      The Jews are the Native Palestinians, and it’s the Bedouins (and other Arabs) who are the cowboys who want to steal their land.
      Anti-Zionism = Pro-Colonialism.

      Reply to Comment