Peres now ‘sheikh’ after visit to Negev Beduin town

Peres says Hura is a prime example of Negev Beduin development, says "sides must solve matter of unauthorized villages."

President Shimon Peres (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
President Shimon Peres
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
President Shimon Peres became an honorary Beduin sheikh when he visited the town of Hura in the Negev on Tuesday.
Though one of the most progressive of the slightly more than a handful of legally recognized Beduin towns and villages, Hura still has a long way to go by Western standards.
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This was Peres’s first visit to a Beduin community as president.
After entering the visitors’ tent and shaking the hands of local dignitaries, Peres inspected the traditional handcrafts of the women.
As he toured the village and conversed with the sheikhs, they thanked him for his dedication to the peace process and ‘anointed’ him as one of their own – in other words he is now Sheikh Shimon.
His hosts told him how much they appreciated the visit because they live on the southern periphery of the state, and the Beduin community is now going through a period of transition from a simple, yet solid life in socioeconomic terms to a modern life, but one that is less stable.
The current decade is critical to the development of the Negev, especially since the Beduin comprise one-third of the Negev’s population, Hura Mayor Muhammad El-Nabari told Peres, underscoring that efforts to make the Negev more attractive so that more people will come build their futures there will fail unless there is a change of attitude towards the Beduin and their presence on the land.
Peres told his hosts that he had been tremendously impressed by what he had seen and heard during his visit. If it were up to him, he said, he would set up a committee to learn what it was that made Hura an example to other Beduin communities in so short a period of time. No one can do for the Beduin what they can do for themselves, he said.
Peres said he read the December 2008 Goldberg Report issued by a government-appointed committee charged with finding a solution to the unauthorized Beduin settlements in the Negev, and was convinced that all sides in the dispute must sit down and reach some kind of accommodation.
Whoever is interested in resolving the Beduin problem should come to Hura to learn, said Peres. President Shimon Peres, speaking during a visit to the Beduin village of Hura, said on Tuesday that peace does exist in Jerusalem, but it could easily be destroyed.
Peres: Changing Jerusalem’s status would be catastrophic
During his visit to Hura, Peres also said that peace does exist in Jerusalem, but it could easily be destroyed.
“People live and work in peace,” Peres said about the current state of Jerusalem, and any new agreement on the city’s status would be explosive.

“Whoever tries to enter into an agreement will destroy everything,” he said.
Jerusalem NGO Ir Amim slammed Peres’s speech.
“Jerusalem’s well-being depends on the ability and willingness of each side involved to look at what is happening with open eyes: that for more than 40 years, there have been two separate nationalities, and the relationships between them have been characterized by suspicion and hostility at best, and violent confrontations at worst,” said Ir Amim’s spokeswoman, Orly Noy.
“Attempts to obscure the difficult reality with poetic words does not help the city, or its residents,” she added.
Peres also said in his speech in Hura that the government should recognize the various Beduin villages in the Negev, and that the Beduin are an integral part of Israel’s south.
• Melanie Lidman and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.