'Don't Call Us Racists'

The few members of Nevatim who agreed to comment about renting to the Bedouin family asked to remain anonymous. A moshav directive said only the committee chairman is authorized to discuss the matter with the media. "We are not racists," said one member. "We simply do not want someone who is not suited to the values of our moshav to be here. It doesn't seem at all logical. The people on our moshav are all from the same background. As for the directive not to speak, it's because if someone says something that is out of place, we will seem like racists." Nevatim was set up in 1946 by immigrants from Hungary but six years later it was dismantled because of lacking agricultural know-how. In 1954, the moshav was set up once again, this time by immigrants from Cochin in India. There are some 120 families on the moshav who are members of the agricultural association. Most of them make their living from agriculture. In recent years, they have been joined by new residents who have built homes on the extension of land set aside for this purpose.

"We built this moshav with hard work," says another member. "It's very easy to talk about racism. If tomorrow the entire Tarabin tribe wants to live here and we don't agree, what will people say? The problem will start after the first one comes because then dozens more families will want to move here, and that may not be to our liking, and it does not matter if they are Jews or Arabs."

There have been numerous thefts at the moshav, which is located seven kilometers from Be'er Sheva. One of the members' proudest achievements is the synagogue, which is a copy of the ancient synagogue in Cochin. About a year ago, several ancient, gold-plated Torah scrolls the immigrants brought with them from Cochin 60 years ago were stolen. They were valued at hundreds of thousands of shekels.

"Racism does not exist on the moshav," says another member. "We are merely thinking of the future. We have Bedouin friends, but the moshav has an identity which has to be preserved." (Yanir Yagna)