While Haj Mousa Tarabin moves about with a smile seemingly glued to his face, he
cannot help but feel slighted as he battles continuous impediments to
establishing his 8-megawatt solar field.
“I am a man who compromised with
the state,” Tarabin told The Jerusalem Post during an exclusive interview while
en route to his southern village of Tarabin last week.
Tarabin tribe originally lived on land that became the town of Ofakim, its
members now reside in an area about 20 kilometers to the
Initially, the government requested that the tribe relocate
temporarily to make way for army training, and it first was transferred to the
Segev Shalom area, and then to the Omer area, Tarabin explained.
didn’t return us to our land, and from then until today we wait for our land,”
Tarabin added that he agreed to a government compromise that
gave him 20 percent of the amount of land the tribe lost, and monetary
compensation for the remainder. About four years ago, after the state began
rezoning agricultural land for construction, a key figure walked into his
“We met here a very important person, and it was my honor to meet
him,” he said, gesturing over to Yosef Abramowitz, who was also sitting in the
backseat of the car.
As president and cofounder of Arava Power Company,
responsible for the establishment of Israel’s first mediumsized solar field,
Abramowitz approached Tarabin about building an 8-megawatt field on 15 hectares
(37 acres) of his land. Part of an array of new projects being initiated by the
firm, the field was to be the first Beduin community solar site.
men eventually grew closer and decided to move forward, the project received a
funding pledge for 80% of the $30 million project from the Overseas Private
Investment Corporation (OPIC), a United States government development
“I call [Abramowitz] today not just the head of our project, but
a person who is my brother and family,” Tarabin said.
But starting in
January 2012, the Public Utility Authority twice delayed approval for Tarabin’s
solar field license application, saying only that it was doing its utmost to
confirm that solar installations met its standards and would continue to discuss the Tarabin
project. But by the time Tarabin received his license, the existing
300-megawatt, medium-sized solar field quota had already been maxed out by other
“I really wanted the state to realize that we compromised, that
we are also faithful, that we are today an integral part of the state,” Tarabin
told the Post. “I really respect the State of Israel. I respect the democracy
that is here. But very unfortunately this is not enough. This doesn’t give all
citizens their rights equally and what they deserve.”
government approved an additional 300- megawatt quota this past fall, the
Finance Ministry appealed the decision due to financial concerns – meaning the
new quota is now on hold.
Getting the project off the ground will be
essential to the Tarabin community as it would provide a crucial new source of
income, as well as new job openings to the 60-70 families there, the tribal
leader explained. “The state was concerned about us and put us inside houses.
That’s not our life – we are Beduin. We live in the desert,” Tarabin
“But we listened to the state,” he continued. “We followed its
direction, yet we are lacking a livelihood. We need to pay electricity bills, we
need to pay for telephones, we need to pay for water. Many things are needed in
There is no point in building a house if you are going to have
no quality of life inside its stone walls, Tarabin argued, adding that such a
situation “is not what a citizen of Israel deserves.”
Not only would
building the field benefit his community, he explained, but it would benefit the
state by adding clean energy to the electric grid and financially supporting an
impoverished community. Expressing his disappointment, he said that if the
government truly supported the country’s Beduin community, the project would
have been carried out a long time ago.
“This is about livelihood, about
the future, about our children whom we need to educate,” he said.
response to what they, too, saw as an injustice toward the Beduin community,
then-MKs Einat Wilf (Independence) and Ghaleb Majadele (Labor) launched a bill
in June that would require the Public Utility Authority to allocate a specific
quota of no less than 10% of the existing cap for mediumsized solar fields to
the Beduin community. About two dozen MKs in total officially or unofficially
expressed support for the bill, but Wilf and Majadele were unable to advance it
before the dissolution of the 18th Knesset.
Abramowitz and other
executives at Arava Power were among those lobbying for the bill.
Beduin are part of the state, have always supported the state and serve in the
army,” Tarabin said. “So I think the country needs to give us more generous
treatment – in behavior, in rights and in allowing us to conduct our
Noting that he feels “deprived” because he cannot implement his
project, he stressed that Israel was not a “bad country” whatsoever.
is a good country,” he said.
“But it doesn’t help enough. It doesn’t
consider everyone equally. And that’s something that hurts inside. And I really
feel that I am deprived. Therefore, I turn to every person who can assist us to
help us establish this project.”
Although Tarabin has yet to see work
begin on his solar field, he told the Post he was confident it would
“I believe that there is nothing that will stand before desire,
and I believe that there will be a project in the end,” he said. “I am a man who does not despair."