Court Orders State to Provide Water for Sheep in Unrecognized Bedouin Village

Water Affairs Court rules that lack of access threatens both the herd owner’s livelihood and the animals themselves.

Eli Ashkenazi
Eli Ashkenazi
A Bedouin community in the Negev.
A Bedouin community in the Negev.Credit: Moti Shani
Eli Ashkenazi
Eli Ashkenazi

The Water Authority and Agriculture Ministry must allow a sheep farmer in an unrecognized Bedouin village to extend his water connection to the herd’s paddock, giving the animals easy access to water, the Water Affairs Court in Haifa ruled last week.

The panel, headed by Haifa District Court Vice President Ron Shapiro, said that not only does a lack of access threaten the herd owner’s livelihood, it is liable to harm the animals.

The court was ruling on an appeal submitted by Hassan Masudin, who lives with his family in an unrecognized Negev village near Be’er Sheva. Masudin has a herd of 200 sheep and 100 lambs. The family has a connection to drinking water, but the spout is a considerable distance from the paddock. Every time Masudin needs to water his animals, he must take them out of the corral and bring them to the spout.

Not only is Masudin’s herd properly registered and vaccinated, argued his attorney, Shmuel Zilberman, but the authorities have allotted him 500 cubic meters of extra water annually for the animals. Having to herd them such a distance just to water them is discriminatory when other farmers’ herds are allowed easy access to water, Zilberman added.

The Water Authority and Agriculture Ministry argued that the government policy on the unrecognized villages allows the supply of water only for drinking and humanitarian purposes. They argued that it was made clear to Masudin that the state would not allow a water connection that would be liable to serve illegal communities. They further stressed that the policy is to allow water for herds only in grazing areas, adding that the herd is kept in the paddock for only two months a year.

But the court ruled that once the state had approved Masudin’s herd and a water allotment, it could not evade its responsibility to make the water accessible.

“The solution offered by the state is not practical, and not only harms the livelihood of the herd owner but the animals themselves, about which we must also be concerned,” the judges ruled.

The court accepted Masudin’s appeal and allowed him to extend the water pipe to the paddock, on condition that this is done in a way that would not allow any other use of the water.

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