Two-and-a-half hours before a ceremony at Sde Boker on Monday marking the death of Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, the Regavim Movement for the Protection of National Land protested the construction of Beduin homes near the Negev town with an event of their own a few kilometers away.
Meir Deutsch, who heads Regavim's central Negev branch, told The Jerusalem Post that Ben-Gurion's dream of a blooming Negev was faltering due to the illegal Beduin building.
"I'm at my own ceremony," Deutsch replied when asked why he was not in attendance at the state event. "We built this exhibit and are essentially saying that Ben-Gurion is 'turning in his grave over this.'"
Regavim's exhibit consisted of a small shack with signs protesting Beduin "villas" that have been built throughout the Sde Boker area. Members of the movement spoke about how these houses were not what the founding premier envisioned for the State of Israel.
"Ben-Gurion said that the Negev will flourish and will be the test for Israel," Deutsch said. "In the meantime, it is failing."
The Regavim movement for the last four years has worked to monitor illegal construction and to preserve state land in Israel.
At the exhibit, entitled "Will the Negev also bloom?," members of Regavim gathered to speak out about what they say is the loss of control over the law in the Negev.
"We are talking about 62,000 villas built here, not small, tiny homes," Deutsch said. "Also we've seen the destruction of close to a million dunes in the area."
The term Regavim uses to describe the communities, "villa," is disputed by the Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages in Negev (RCUV). It claims the units are small, temporary, homes that are expected to be recognized in the near future, and could hardly be deemed "villas."
"They are unrecognized communities," Salmon Abu Hmad, a RCUV spokesman said. "They aren't illegal villas. We are talking about communities that aren't recognized that are in the process of being recognized."
Deutsch called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to take responsibility and to understand that if he doesn't act quickly, Ben-Gurion's grave will be surrounded by Beduin homes.
"What we are asking is that the Prime Minister spends the day in his office to find a solution to bring back the safety to the Negev," Deutsch said.