Saeed Alkharumi, Knesset Member and Bedouin Leader, Laid to Rest

Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov
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Saeed Alkharumi in the Knesset, last year
Saeed Alkharumi in the Knesset, last yearCredit: David Green
Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov

Saeed Alkharumi, the United Arab List deputy chairman and a Knesset member for the Islamist party, was laid to rest on Wednesday after dying of a heart attack at 49.

Alkharumi, who served as a Knesset member since 2017, was seen as a leading advocate for the rights of his Bedouin community, championing the cause of unrecognized villages in the Negev.

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Several lawmakers attended the funeral: Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg, Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev, United Arab List Chairman Mansour Abbas, Meretz's Esawi Freige, and Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh. 

The only member of his party who didn't support its backing for the Bennett-Lapid government, Alkharumi abstained to protest house demolitions in the Negev. 

Thousands attend the funeral of Saeed Alkharumi in Segev Shalom, southern Israel, today. Credit: Ilan Assayag

He "did great work throughout his life to advance the Arab society in the Negev," the United Arab List said in a statement after his death.

Israel's president Isaac Herzog tweeted "I am in pain and in shock from the early passing of my friend Saeed Alkharumi, chairman of the interior committee and man of the Negev. Throughout his career, Saeed was an enlightening and wise public servant who was an outstanding representative of the Bedouin community in the Negev. I send my deepest condolences to his friends and family.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called Alkharumi "a partner," adding he had a part in forming the current Israeli government, which unseated Benjamin Netanyahu after years in power. "A man of the Negev... who believed the Israeli society can change," he added.

Alkharumi with UAL chairman Mansour Abbas and UAL MKs Mazen Ghanayim and Walid TahaCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg

As a lawmaker, Alkharumi was chairman of the Knesset's Interior and Environment Committee.

Born in 1972 in the Bedouin village of Segev Shalom, Alkharumi went to high school in the town of Jatt, in northern Israel. He received his bachelor's degree in physics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

As he was teaching at the local high school in Segev Shalom, Alkharumi went into local politics and was elected to the village's council.

He became secretary-general of the United Arab List in 2002, and two years later was elected head of the council of Segev Shalom, a position he held till 2008. In 2014, Alkharumi became deputy chairman of the United Arab List.

Iman Yassin Khatib, who was fifth on the United Arab List's slate in the last round of election, will return to the Knesset in his place. Khatib's return to the Kennest is expected to help the coalition, as Khatib is more closely aligned with party leader Mansour Abbas.

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