The Population and Immigration Authority office in Be’er Sheva has refused for years to register address changes for many Bedouin despite regulations ordering it, affecting their access to school transportation, mail and other basic services.
The office refuses to register Bedouin under their tribe’s name if they’ve moved or returned to unrecognized villages in unincorporated areas, despite regulations requiring it.
“I was living outside of any settlement,” M. told Haaretz. “In 1995, I bought a lot in my name and my wife’s name in Tel Sheva and moved there. After several years of marriage, we divorced. The Sharia court awarded my wife the house, and I went to live with my mother in open country in 2011.
“I brought to the Interior Ministry a document from the local council where I live, on the outskirts of Tel Sheva, but I don’t live in the town itself. They told me, ‘There’s no such thing as “outskirts” now.’ I applied again several times over the years – I thought maybe they had changed the law, but they hadn’t.”
M. said the issue of registration creates difficulties. “I live in a place that’s not my official address,” he said. “Letters don’t come, deliveries do not arrive. I have to come to Tel Sheva all the time.”
In a letter to the Population Authority last month, Abir Joubran Dakwar, an attorney with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, demanded that a directive be issued to the Be’er Sheva bureau to cease the policy. ACRI said the office’s policy is illegal and that it would file a lawsuit if it wasn’t corrected.
The letter cited the case of another family among 10 that had turned to ACRI for help. The official address of D., a resident of the unrecognized village of Alsar (adjacent to another unrecognized village, Wadi al-Na’am), is “the Mas’udein al-Azazme tribe.” D. married a woman from Tel Sheva in 2003 who subsequently moved to Alsar. The couple has five children and, even though the family lived in Alsar, the wife and children’s official address remained Tel Sheva.
The decision not to authorize address changes goes beyond postal issues. When A., one of the couple’s children, began studying in 2018 at a special education school, the parents had trouble signing him up for transportation because his official address was wrong. The couple requested that the wife and children’s address be updated to the Mas’udein al-Azazme tribe, like the father’s. But the Population Authority clerk refused, saying policy does not allow addresses to be changed to a tribal name.
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The problem of arranging A.’s transportation repeats itself at the start of each school year. Last February, the parents again appealed for an address change. They asked the clerk to provide them with certificates attesting to their permanent residence near Wadi al-Na’am and added an affidavit by D.’s wife. The clerk rejected their request without even reviewing the documents, claiming that addresses can’t be changed from a locality to the name of the tribe.
A field worker for the Council of Unrecognized Villages in the Negev said that “since 1974, the authorities stopped registering people by the names of villages and began registering by the names of tribes. So, for example, the al-Hawashla, my family, is dispersed over six unrecognized villages. That creates issues like children not being registered in the villages of their parents. It also affects statistics. The government doesn’t know how many people really live in the unrecognized villages, where people do live or how many residents there are in each locality.”
The Population Authority responded to questions on the subject saying: “For many years now, the authority’s policy in connection with listing an address in its registry is that anyone who is registered as living in a permanent settlement cannot change it back to a tribal address. This is in line with implementing a government decision on the matter that, among other things, is designed to encourage residents living in unincorporated Bedouin areas in the Negev to move to permanent settlements.
“According to this policy, it is no longer possible to register these residents with an inexact address, and their addresses must be registered according to the local authority relevant to their place of residence,” it stated.