Family gathered around their house which was slated for demolition on Tuesday.
(photo credit: ELIYAHU KAMISHER)
In the Negev Beduin village of Umm-al-Hiran, the extended Abu Alkiyan family was busy clearing their belongings – removing mattresses, mirrors, and toys from their home.
It was Tuesday, the day on which the house – considered illegal by the government – was scheduled for demolition. Now, after police postponed the action, they have until November 30 before the current court order takes effect.
“We are in this fight for many years, it is a fight for peace,” said Umm-al-Hiran resident Abed al Rahman, 52, who was born in the village. “We don’t want to bother anyone, we are human beings who just want to live.”
Residents of the village contend that the government’s desire to move them to planned Beduin cities, such as Rahat or Hura, would change their rural way of life. “We are here because we like it here. We would not fight if we did not love this way of life,” said Rahman.
Umm-al-Hiran has been the scene of an extensive 13-year legal battle between its Beduin residents and the state. The residents are represented by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. They were moved under military order and resettled there by the IDF in 1956, after being evicted from the land on which they were living in 1948.
Although they have lived in the area for decades, the community was never given legal title to the land. Thus, a 2-1 Supreme Court ruling in 2015, authorized the state’s plan to demolish the home of some 700 people. The new town of Hiran – comprised of mostly religious Jewish families – is now planned in place of the old Umm-al-Hiran.
Residents were greeted with a loudspeaker that blared through the village early Tuesday morning, calling them to protest the bulldozers, which were believed to be imminent. Included among the residents were Joint List MK Ayman Odeh and Bassel Ghattas, who spent the night there.
“This is a story about the government bringing the residents to this place, and then, after 60 years, replacing them with Jewish residents,” Ayman Odeh told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, speaking at the site. On Monday, the MK called any demolition attempt “a red line and dangerous,” on his official Twitter account.
Bassel Ghattas said the solution is to recognize the unrecognized village or reach a compromise. “They can talk to the people here and find a solution, either within the new settlement, which cannot be based on ethnic lines, or they can stay here,” he said. “[The residents] are ready to consider solutions which fit with the general planning of the region. But the government wants simply to demolish and throw them away.”
Residents of Umm-al-Hiran have been offered 800-sq.m. plots of land in the nearby Beduin town of Hura, along with financial compensation.
A number of Jewish activists, including youth from AJEEC – The Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation, were among the protesters on Tuesday.
“The idea that you can replace one group of citizens with another is intolerable,” said Dr. Yeela Raanan, a lecturer at Sapir College. “Right now we have a sprinkling of Jews, but there should be thousands of Jews.”
There are approximately 160,000 Beduin living in the Negev, with about half of that population residing in unrecognized villages.
Residents of Umm-al-Hiran have been offered 800-meter plots of land and in the nearby Beduin town of Hura and financial compensation.
Among those protesting on Tuesday where a number of Jewish activists including youth activists from AJEEC – The Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation. “The idea that you can replace one group of citizens with another is intolerable,” Dr. Yeela Raanan a lecturer at Sapir College said, adding “Right now we have a sprinkling of Jews, but there should be 1000s of Jews."