The Block of Recognition

The Arab village of Ein Hud has existed for decades on the western slopes of Mount Carmel; the village, a wholly palpable entity to its residents, is not recognized by the state and, as such, is not entitled to basic services.

The Arab village of Ein Hud has existed for decades on the western slopes of Mount Carmel; the village, a wholly palpable entity to its residents, is not recognized by the state and, as such, is not entitled to basic services. The state simply didn't decide what to do with the villagers, who, in 1948, were forced to leave their previous home, which is now the nearby artists' village of Ein Hod.

Nearly 10 years ago, the government decided that in the case of Ein Hud, justice and logic require the problem to be resolved by granting the village official recognition. The decision was left intact by subsequent governments. Extensive discussions were held on the subject by planning institutions at various levels, and a decision was made to allocate land for the community.

The Nature and Parks Authority agreed that the land in question would be made available from the Carmel Park, as part of a comprehensive land settlement program in which land from the park was also officially allocated for the Jewish community of Nir Etzion and the Yemin Orde educational institution, which are both located within the bounds of the park. It was also decided that a large area would be added to the park on its southern side. Over the past few months, official consent to the plan has come from the ministers of the interior and the environment.

However, this arrangement, in which state funds have been invested, did not impress MK Eli Aflalo (Likud) or MK Yuri Stern (National Union), the chairman of the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee, which had the task of approving the land plan for the park.

The two MKs, who were the only ones present two weeks ago at a committee meeting in which the plan was discussed, decided in the meantime not to approve it. This was another disappointment for the residents of Ein Hud who, in the absence of an approved plan for their village, cannot go ahead with an orderly, legal planning process that will also include the construction of housing.

Stern's excuse for rejecting the plan is that the committee is not a rubber stamp and wants to examine the entire subject of building on Mount Carmel, including the question of whether illegal construction has taken place in Ein Hud since the village was granted legal recognition. After the examination is completed, he says, the subject can be discussed again.

The result is that the residents of Ein Hud find themselves in a new trap. Until 10 years ago, everything they built was defined as illegal. After they received official government recognition, they had to continue building to meet housing needs, even though the recognition they were granted was not accompanied by a master plan for construction. Now, Knesset members are liable to claim that the construction in the village is illegal and place new obstacles on the road to the village's final recognition.

What the MKs on the Interior and Environment Committee did was to add to the misery of the residents of a village that has already been recognized by all the official state bodies and has been allocated a tiny area of Carmel Park, totaling only 80 dunams (20 acres). Only after this arrangement comes into effect will it be possible to define accurately what is legal and what is illegal.

There are numerous problems of illegal building in the country's Arab, Bedouin and Druze communities, including construction in Carmel Park itself by Druze villages. However, there was no justification for linking those problems to the case of Ein Hud, for which a defined and agreed planning track was worked out. The aim of the plan was not to solve all the problems of illegal building in other communities that exist in the area of the park: If the Interior and Environment Committee is so concerned about the fate of the park, it can easily hold a separate discussion on that specific subject.

Perhaps the committee will soon approve the plan and its present stance will prove to be no more than a small obstacle on the road to final recognition for Ein Hud. Sometimes, however, small actions attest to large-scale distortions of approach. In his poem, "A Trivial Case" (1945), Natan Alterman recounted a true story about members of the left-wing Hashomer Hatza'ir youth movement who during the course of a hike through the Sharon area, took watermelons from a field owned by Arabs. To those who wondered why he had bothered to address the subject, he explained at the end of the poem: "If we cultivate a vision of utopian greatness, it's essential to touch on small things, too. And let's not say that this is a microscopic case. In a microscope, my brother, the germs are on parade."