Settlers Sue Bedouin Over Outdoor Oven Fueled by Livestock Manure

Judge says Israel ought to grant retroactive building permit for taboun, which Bedouin say is 20 years old.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
A taboun, or outdoor oven, belonging to a Bedouin community in Israel.Credit: Tal Cohen

A couple from the settlement of Carmel in the South Hebron Hills is suing the adjacent Bedouin community, Umm el Kheir, for 100,000 shekels ($28,650) in damages, for the damage and aggravation they say has been caused them by a taboun oven for baking bread.

The couple, Yaakov and Bareket Goldstein, are also asking the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court to order the destruction of the oven, which is used by dozens of people.

The couple, aged 30 and 28, moved to their home in Carmel in 2008. They argue that “a number of years ago” the Bedouin residents of Umm el Kheir trespassed on state land some 50 meters from their home and built a large stone structure with inner ceramic walls. The couple says that because livestock manure is used to keep the oven lit constantly, the awful smell reaches their home and those of their neighbors and disturbs them and their four children.

The Palestinian residents of Umm el Kheir have been living in the region since the 1960s on land they purchased from residents of Yatta. They belong to the Hadalin tribe that Israel expelled from Tel Arad in the early 1950s. The Carmel settlement was built near Umm el Kheir in 1981 and has gradually expanded.

Umm el Kheir’s residents live in tents, tin shacks, and huts against which the Civil Administration has issued various demolition orders over the years. The buildings have no water or electricity, and the residents are too poor to buy gas to operate the oven.

In 2010 the Civil Administration issued a demolition order against the oven, but the High Court of Justice issued a temporary restraining order in response to a petition by the residents. Residents of Umm el-Kheir claim that the oven has been there for 20 years, and the demolition order was issued only after a new settler neighborhood was built nearby. Two months ago, on November 12, a hearing was held on the residents’ petition, and their lawyer, Jiat Nasser, agreed to withdraw the petition since Justice Uzi Vogelman had opined that the state ought to accept the residents’ request for a retroactive building permit for the taboun.

Two days after the petition was canceled, attorney Doron Nir-Tzvi filed the Goldsteins’ suit. Residents of Umm el Kheir learned of the lawsuit only last week, when Rami Fares, the Civil Administration’s infrastructure officer, submitted a copy of the suit to Suleiman Eid, one of the village elders, who is listed as a defendant. In addition to the damages claim, Yaakov Goldstein has filed a police complaint against Eid, whom Goldstein says threatened his life.

Since the Bedouin petition was withdrawn, settlers have twice raided the Umm el Kheir camp and poured buckets of water on the taboun to shut it down. At least one time they were accompanied by soldiers, but the Civil Administration said that when the soldiers were there, the oven was not extinguished.

Nasser told Haaretz that the lawsuit is an effort to scare the residents after Justice Vogelman made clear his position on granting the structure a permit.

Click the alert icon to follow topics: