Representatives of the Joint List of Arab parties and social activists plan to start a four-day march Thursday from unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev to the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, hoping to raise awareness of the hardships in those communities.
The Joint List said that at the end of the march it will present to President Reuven Rivlin and the Knesset to recognize all 46 of these villages. About 100,000 Bedouin citizens live in the unrecognized communities without basic infrastructure, including connections to the national water and electricity grids, local health services, paved roads and various public institutions. Most of the communities do not have their own schools and daycare centers, requiring families to send their children long distances from home.
The Joint List discussed the march with Rivlin when they met with him this week as part of the consultations on forming the new government, and Rivlin agreed to meet the marchers when they arrive in Jerusalem. Protest leaders expect that the president’s participation will help advance their plan to provide full civil and municipal services to the communities; create a transportation infrastructure; provide a balance between development and environmental protection; and establish a special planning framework for the Bedouin villages under the auspices of the Regional Planning and Building Committee, along with significant representation from the villages themselves.
Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List, will participate in the march, along with other members of his party and representatives of the unrecognized and other Bedouin communities. The march will start at Wadi al-Na’am and pass through a number of unrecognized communities before ending in the capital.
The master plan for recognizing the Bedouin communities is based on research conducted by the regional council for the unrecognized villages, and the Bimkom - Planners for Planning Rights nonprofit organization, in cooperation with the Sidreh nonprofit organization for Bedouin Arab women in the Negev. The plan emphasizes the benefits of recognizing the villages for all residents of the Negev, both Arab and Jewish.