Poets, artists, activists visit embattled Beduin village

Over a hundred people show solidarity with residents who have seen their community dismantled by the Israel Lands Administration four times over the past month.

Beduin Poetry (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Beduin Poetry
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Over a hundred artists and activists from across the country came to an unrecognized Beduin village in the Negev on Saturday, to show solidarity with residents who have seen their community dismantled by the Israel Lands Administration four times over the past month.
The visit to Kafr al-Arakib was organized by Cultural Guerrilla, a collective of artists and poets who use their artistic output to draw public attention to social struggles.
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The gathering, which was called “Beduin Poetry,” was organized in cooperation with a number of organizations, including the Negev Co-existence Forum, and Zochrot (“Remembering”) a group devoted to raising awareness of what they refer to as the “catastrophe” that befell Palestinians in 1948.
Cultural Guerrilla founder Mati Shemoelof said the group planned the visit to increase awareness of what the villages are dealing with, and because “culture and poetry have a real importance. I don’t think they can change the world, but they can make a difference by giving people a creative outlet for their politics and by changing things on a human level.”
Saturday’s event was one of a series of solidarity events held by Cultural Guerrilla, which has sought to highlight issues ranging from the children of foreign workers facing deportation to the biometric database currently in its trial period; and the protest movement against Israeli policy in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
The solidarity meeting was held under a steelroofed plaza next to the village’s cemetery, one of the only spots in al-Arakib that was not bulldozed in recent weeks. One by one, Jewish activists and local Beduin leaders addressed the crowd, describing how they see the story of an unrecognized Beduin village in the Negev as emblematic of the lack of equality in the country when it comes to housing rights.
Poems were recited and organizers said most were written specifically for the event. They mainly dealt with housing and images of bulldozers, scattered belongings, and homes trampled underfoot.
Cultural Guerrilla member Daniel Oz said the organization doesn’t support a radical change in the building law; rather, it is pushing for the state to give permanent status to unrecognized Beduin villages in the Negev.
“We don’t support illegal building, but what we are saying is that the government should make these buildings legal,” he said.
Oz referred to worries that Beduin are “taking over the Negev” as “demagoguery” not based on facts. He added that he and Culture Guerrillas see recognition of villages like al-Arabib as a move that will foster greater coexistence, “which all of us will benefit from.”
Al-Arakib leader Sheikh Sayyah al-Turi said on Saturday he was pleased to see Jewish Israelis come to the village to show their support.
It “proves to me that I’m not alone in this struggle.
It shows me that there are people in Israeli society who are against what is going on here.”
The visit came two days after Southern District police chief Cmdr.
Yochanan Danino held a goodwill meeting with about a dozen Beduin leaders at Beersheba’s police station, in which the two sides pledged to maintain their traditionally close ties despite growing tensions over the demolitions in al- Arakib.