Bedouin- Eliyahu Hershkowitz- Oct. 26, 2010
Bedouin children siphoning water from a pipe in the Lakiya area Oct. 26, 2010 Photo by Eliyahu Hershkowitz
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A Negev politician cut off the water supply of some 4,000 Bedouin for 24 hours this week because he did not want his town to shoulder their nearly NIS 2 million water bill.

The water was turned back on Tuesday afternoon, by order of the Be'er Sheva District Court, pending a hearing set for Thursday.

"They're not under the jurisdiction of Lakiya, but their water bills are sent to us," said Lakiya town council head Khaled al-Sana, referring to the Bedouin residents. "I have 10,000 residents in the town, and I have to pay the bills of another 4,000 residents? That just isn't right."

Sana said that though he did not want to cut off the water, he "had no other choice."

"Over the last two months, we've received water bills of nearly NIS 1 million each month," he said. "The council simply can't withstand that. I have deficits in the council because of these water bills."

One man who was left without water said people resorted to unusual measures to make sure their children didn't go thirsty.

"They were forced to go to the gas station and fill buckets so the children could drink," said Taleb al-Assad. "I don't understand how the council head decided to cut off the water and leave children without drinking water. How could it be that in 2010 they are cutting 4,000 people off from water?"

Last week tens of thousands in Be'er Sheva were left without running water for several hours, after a water main was ruptured during railroad work. The municipality distributed water to residents and the water company worked to restore the regular supply and fix the broken main.

"Everyone was called into action," Assad said. "Apparently the children of Be'er Sheva are more important than the children of the Bedouin diaspora."

Another resident, Ibrahim al-Hajuj, said the Bedouin do actually pay for their water, but explained that water use is estimated as those living in villages that are not officially recognized by the state lack water meters and other infrastructure.