Jewish Town to Be Built on Bedouin Land Under Negev Relocation Plan

Bedouin residents did not squat on the land, but were transferred there in 1956 by the direct order of the military administration in place at that time, but now, their lands lie within the master plan of the Be'er Sheva metropolitan area.

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The land of one of the Bedouin communities slated to be evicted under a proposed government plan will be used for the construction of a new Jewish community, documents revealed by Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, and obtained by Haaretz show. In the coming weeks, the cabinet is expected to approve the forcible relocation of some 30,000 Bedouin to new neighborhoods of existing Bedouin towns.

Residents of the community in question did not squat on the land, but were transferred there in 1956 by the direct order of the military administration in place at that time. But now, their lands lie within the master plan of the Be'er Sheva metropolitan area.

Salim, a resident of one of the Bedouin villages in danger of relocation.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The community comprises about 1,000 people, all members of the Abu Alkiyan clan. They reside in two villages, Atir and Umn al-Hiran, located near Wadi Atir, close to Route 316 and east of the village of Houra.

Until 1948, the clan held the land now used by Kibbutz Shoval. After the war, it traveled across the Negev looking for new land, but did not find any, because most was already claimed by other tribes. In 1956, it approached the military administration and was transferred to the Wadi Atir area.

A classified military administration document dating from 1957 says that the clan received 7,000 dunams of land near the wadi. It then split into two hamlets that shared the land. Unlike in many Bedouin communities, the houses in Atir and Umm al-Hiran are built of stone.

In November, Haaretz reported that the Prime Minister's Office had prevented Atir and Umm al-Hiran from being recognized as legal townships, contrary to the recommendations of a professional committee of the National Planning and Building Council. The residents have appealed their eviction orders, and some appeals have already reached the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, a plan to construct a new Jewish community, to be called Hiran, has been submitted to the regional planning and building committee, which has already heard the Bedouin residents' objections. The Interior Ministry told Haaretz a detailed plan for the first neighborhood of Hiran is already being discussed.

The government agency responsible for regularizing Bedouin towns in the Negev said the Abu Alkiyan clan was moved to this area by the British High Commissioner before the establishment of the state, but has since invaded state lands. It said the state was preparing new neighborhoods suited to the clan's needs in the town of Houra.

"We came here in 1956, after the state decided to move us from Beit Kama," said one resident, Salim. "We don't want to move away; we have nothing to look for in Houra. They want to build a Jewish community on this land and call it Hiran. We have no problem with being annexed to Hiran as long as we stay on our land."

"If anyone in the government thinks they can evict us, they're mistaken," another family member said. "If they demolish our houses, we'll live in tents. If they take our tents, we have no problem living under the open sky. We're not going to use force against anyone, but we will not leave our lands."



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