The Baal Shem Tov, or Besht —  the founder of Chasidism — 
met the soul of the Messiah during an ascent to heaven. 
The Besht asked him, "When will the Master come?" 
The Messiah answered, "When your wellsprings break forth to the outside!" 
(from a letter written by the Besht to his brother-in-law about one of his soul ascents) 

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Stay in touch with us by signing with your email using the feedback field. (Your email will not be visible.) You can also leave comments. The content of this petition has already been received by JNF-US. As of this moment, JNF-US is negotiating with us to meet our concerns – thanks in part to your letters. Your signature on this petition will help us now as we expand the campaign to address the policies of KKL and Israel's government. The petition, through our notes and stike-throughs, now exists as a record of what is being addressed by JNF-US, and what remains to be done. So read the petition, but more importantly write to JNF with encouragement for their continued responsiveness to this campaign. See more under Action Points below.

Petition and Resolution on JNF-US’s “Blueprint Negev,” the Environment and the Bedouin

To the Officers and Advisors of the Jewish National Fund of the United States:

“Blueprint Negev,” the $600 million development project of the Jewish National Fund of the United States (JNF-US), is being touted as a project which will green the desert, help the Bedouin, and allow the Jewish people to fulfill the next stage of Zionist state building. Yet serious ethical and environmental questions have been raised about “Blueprint Negev.”

JNF-US is using the reputation of Keren Kayemet LeYisrael, the JNF in Israel (KKL) to raise millions of dollars, which will be used for projects that are not connected to KKL-JNF. Instead, T’nuat Or, which has no environmental expertise, will receive this money to develop a region which is both ecologically very sensitive and which includes the greatest stretches of undeveloped land that still exist in the state of Israel. [NOTE: JNF-US says that T'nuat Or's projects are only small part of Blueprint Negev. To JNF-US's credit, they have already asked T'nuat Or to change some of the publicity material to be less hostile to the Bedouin.]

“Blueprint Negev” will consume tremendous resources to create suburbs of single-family homes with green lawns, which will be an unsustainable burden on the desert ecosystem. [NOTE: Despite changes, JNF-US is still looking at the problems of the Negev from a developer's perspective, which means that some of their plans continue to be problematic for the environment.] Moreover, the settlements to be created as part of “Blueprint Negev” are planned to exclude non-Jews from becoming residents. “Blueprint Negev” and related development could require the demolition of many Bedouin villages, forcing thousands of Bedouin off the land, while allowing none of the Bedouin to live in newly established settlements. [NOTE: The Ministry of Housing's plans for the Negev could include widespread demolitions, with the goal of "concentrating" the Bedouin. JNF, contrary to our original reports, is not supporting any of the projects that involve the demolition of Bedouin houses. We want to prevent all demolitions, and hope that our negotiations with JNF-US will leverage JNF-US's position to influence KKL and the government.]

Concerning the Bedouin, JNF-US in its public statements has justified the destruction of Bedouin villages on the basis of their being “illegal,” [NOTE: JNF-US has stopped taking this position!] even though many of these “unrecognized” villages were founded over 50 years ago when the Israel Defense Force relocated various Bedouin tribes to these sites from other parts of the Negev. Moreover, JNF-US has explained that settling the Bedouin in urban townships would help the Bedouin live better lives, despite the high unemployment and crime in these townships, and the impossibility of maintaining a traditional way of life there. [NOTE: JNF-US believes they can turn this situation around through economic development. We say that as long as the Israeli government requires the Bedouin to give up land claims in order to live in the townships, the townships will represent cultural destruction, which cannot be overcome by good intentions or jobs.]

At the same time, the Bedouin serve in the Israel Defense Force and have been loyal to the Jewish state. While there is room to debate the way Israel can best help the Bedouin, no actions which destroy Bedouin culture or which force the Bedouin to move off the land against their will can be considered helping them. Bedouin culture, which survives in the “unrecognized” villages, is already compromised by pressure from the government, exclusion from the benefits of development and the denial of basic human services.

Jewish and Human Values:

Fairness towards non-Jews is an essential principle of Jewish tradition (ki gerim atem) and a foundation of the state of Israel, enshrined in Israel's Declaration of Independence, which states that “The State of Israel…will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.” Judaism equally enjoins us to honor and respect the land.

Applying these principles to “Blueprint Negev,” any development plan for the Negev should strengthen the best aspects of Bedouin culture and create infrastructure that can support the traditional Bedouin way of life for those who choose it. Likewise, any development plan for the Negev should meet the strictest environmental review, yet JNF-US’s partners in “Blueprint Negev” have no environmental credentials. Touting “Blueprint Negev” as a sustainable or ecological plan without taking these steps, or advertising it as a plan that would help the Bedouin, or even presenting “Blueprint Negev” as a project in partnership with “the JNF” when KKL is not involved, constitutes g’neivat da’at, “stealing a person’s mind,” a kind of fraud.

JNF-US’s partner T'nuat Or frequently quotes David Ben Gurion as saying, "In the Negev the people of Israel shall be tested." We call on JNF-US to heed Ben Gurion's advice and the lead the way for all of Israel by turning "Blueprint Negev" into a plan that will pass the tests of transparency, sustainability, democracy and equity.

Action Points:

[Note: The second, third and fourth points summarize the proposals we have sent to JNF-US, which they are currently considering. Please contact JNF-US about Blueprint Negev to encourage them to continue this process, and tell them you appreciate their willingness to engage with these issues.]

  • We resolve to contact JNF-US and inform it of our concerns, and to give money to KKL directly rather than through the agency of JNF-US as long as these issues remain unresolved. We will call on our friends, congregations and communities to do the same.
  • We urge JNF-US to open its plans to public inspection and to bring in third parties to fairly and objectively evaluate the impact of “Blueprint Negev” upon Bedouin culture. We call on JNF-US to withhold its support from any Jewish settlement which is sited so as to require the destruction of any Bedouin village or home. We categorically reject the use of Negev development to justify the planned demolition of Bedouin homes and villages, whether or not the villages are legally "recognized" by Israel's government.
  • We ask JNF-US to listen carefully to the environmental criticisms that have been made of “Blueprint Negev” and to revise “Blueprint Negev” in light of those criticisms. We call on JNF-US and its partners to subject every aspect of “Blueprint Negev” to the highest standard of environmental review, equal to the requirements for actual KKL projects.
  • We therefore call on JNF-US and its partners to revise “Blueprint Negev” with full participation of the Bedouin tribes and villages; to channel the money raised for Blueprint Negev through KKL rather than T'nuat Or and/or to subject all Blueprint Negev plans to environmental review by outside parties; and to rework “Blueprint Negev” into an ecologically sustainable plan that will ensure the health of the Negev and all the communities and ethnic groups within it for the foreseeable future.
  • We will also urge KKL-JNF in Israel to publicly distance themselves from JNF-US’s “Blueprint Negev.” [Note: KKL has been unresponsive to our queries and concerns, while JNF-US has been eager to hear our viewpoints. We no longer advise people to give to KKL directly instead of JNF-US.]

  • Sincerely,

    Rabbi David Seidenberg

    Ryan Feinberg, posted January 2, 2008 06:23 PM

    Kol hakavod to the people organizing this petition for just and sustainable life in the Negev.

    Rebecca Meyers, posted January 2, 2008 06:25 PM

    I have routinely purchased tree-plantings in Israel as gifts for friends and relatives to celebrate their simchas. I intend to refrain from ever again doing so, so long as JNF continues in its policy of disenfranchising Bedouin in the Negev.

    Daniel Sieradski, posted January 2, 2008 06:25 PM

    I oppose JNF-US's Blueprint Negev.

    Alan Belsky, posted January 2, 2008 06:37 PM

    I support this petition.

    Aryeh Bernstein, posted January 2, 2008 06:38 PM

    I support this petition and oppose Blueprint Negev.

    T. Gidseg, posted January 2, 2008 07:50 PM

    I support this petition.

    Raja Anderson, posted January 2, 2008 08:07 PM

    JNF-US's plan for the Negev is shortsighted and ecologivally unsound, and their attitude toward the Bedouins is at best paternalistic and at worst racist.

    Marshall Schwartz, posted January 2, 2008 09:35 PM

    Let's not destroy what we once considered so precious: our collective soul. I, too, oppose Blueprint Negev.

    Jared Goldberg, posted January 2, 2008 09:50 PM

    As an American Jew who has been living in the Negev these past few months I am outraged to hear what blueprint Negev is doing and hope they will decide to change their plans.

    Jason Pollens, posted January 2, 2008 10:03 PM

    Benjamin Maron, posted January 2, 2008 11:18 PM

    I will cease to purchase JNF trees as gifts until this and the JNF's other various unscrupulous land activities cease.

    David A.M. Wilensky, posted January 3, 2008 12:04 AM

    Bring justice to the Land!

    Zac Johnson, posted January 3, 2008 12:47 AM

    I was lucky enough to tour Bedouin Villages in the Negev this summer, and found their situation deplorable. JNF USA is doing a disservice to Israel's democratic aspirations.

    Jonathan Matz, posted January 3, 2008 12:57 AM

    Israel must plan WITH the Bedouins, not for them.

    Carole Edelsky, posted January 3, 2008 01:17 AM

    I support this petition.

    D'vora K'lilah, posted January 3, 2008 02:09 AM

    We have a responsibility to be fair and just to all the indigenous peoples.

    David Rafsky, posted March 18, 2008 5:22 PM


    Posted by: Rabbi Bruce B Seltzer, Northampton at January 3, 2008 6:38 AM

    Please respect the Bedouin culture. It is irreplaceable.

    Posted by: Abigail Grafton at January 3, 2008 6:42 AM

    Tzedek tzedek tirdof.

    Posted by: Sam Feinstein-Feit at January 3, 2008 10:42 AM

    The government's treatment of the Bedouin is something that I, as the Bedouin's fellow Israeli citizen, find incomprehensible and deplorable.

    Posted by: DeDe Komisar, Jerusalem at January 3, 2008 12:41 PM

    I support this petition.

    Posted by: Gil Friend at January 3, 2008 3:36 PM

    I support this petition. Israel has enough problems and should not create additional ones.

    Posted by: Gerald Weintraub at January 3, 2008 5:02 PM

    We must insure that sustainability is always grounded in an ethical framework. This project seems to ignore the larger moral questions at play in displacing the Bedouin from their villages.

    Posted by: Sandra Lubarsky, Flagstaff, Arizona at January 3, 2008 6:17 PM

    Posted by: David Shneyer at January 3, 2008 8:06 PM

    Respect and support all the people living in the Negev

    Posted by: Robert Pavel, San Francisco at January 3, 2008 8:31 PM

    The Bedouin are very much a part of Israel and their existence needs to be addressed.

    Posted by: Allison Shiozaki, former Arava Institute for Environmental Studies student at January 3, 2008 9:01 PM

    Posted by: Malika Krasik-Geiger, Sebastopol, CA at January 4, 2008 8:41 PM

    The unrecognized Bedoin communities have voices and organization. They deserve to be hear and acknowledged particularly in Negev urban and environmental planning schemes.

    Posted by: Hanah Ehrenreich, former Stagerim participant at January 7, 2008 2:25 PM

    I support this petition -- can't say it better than the folks above!

    Posted by: Jonathan Lehrer, TLS at January 11, 2008 5:06 PM

    I support this petition, Israel is also home to the Bedouin.

    Posted by: Saran Kirschbaum at January 15, 2008 5:48 PM

    This is not the first time American philathropic oganizations have planned to undermine Israel's envirionment. American Hadassah did the same think when they planned to sell the land around the hospital to developers in order to finance the hospital. So far we've managed to stop that plan, as we'll need to do in this case as well.

    Posted by: Rachel Deitcher, Jerusalem at January 15, 2008 7:54 PM

    Posted by: Rahel Smith, SF Bay Area, US at January 15, 2008 10:18 PM

    Posted by: Mishi Fox, Sydney Australia at January 17, 2008 11:43 AM

    I support this petition

    Posted by: Megan Draheim at January 21, 2008 2:10 PM

    It is not morally acceptable to wipe out Bedouin culture in the Negev.

    Posted by: Martha Hull, Frederick MD at January 21, 2008 4:14 PM

    I support this petition.

    Posted by: Toby Reiter, Washington DC at January 21, 2008 4:51 PM

    very disturbing initiative for JNF-USA to be planning considering the wonderful work that JNF does do.
    Please change your minds.

    Posted by: Terry Rielly at January 22, 2008 11:46 PM

    v'asita hayashar v'ha tov

    Posted by: Mia Lazarus at January 23, 2008 12:50 AM

    I support this petition. We must act with integrity towards our fellow humans. We must find true sustainability.

    Posted by: Abbe Lyons, Ithaca, NY at January 23, 2008 2:07 PM

    Stop Blueprint Negev.

    Posted by: Beverly Lerner, Washington D.C. at January 24, 2008 3:03 PM

    I support the petition to stop Blueprint Negev.

    Posted by: Dominique Martin, Chicago, IL at January 24, 2008 6:34 PM

    I support this petition.

    Posted by: Pam Rumancik at January 24, 2008 6:40 PM

    I support this petition.

    Posted by: Rebecca Walters, Vancouver BC at January 24, 2008 6:58 PM

    I support this petition.

    Posted by: Deborah Grenn at January 25, 2008 2:30 AM

    Do not rob the Bedouin of their right to exist. This is morally reprehensible.

    Posted by: Debra Stuckgold at January 25, 2008 2:49 AM

    I support this petition.

    Posted by: Robert Browne at January 25, 2008 3:15 AM

    Stop Blueprint Negev

    Posted by: Marilyn Hacker at January 25, 2008 7:58 AM

    Stop Blueprint Negev

    Posted by: Margaret Mastrangelo, Amherst, MA at January 27, 2008 9:13 PM

    Protect the Bedouin. Protect the environment. Stop Blueprint Negev

    Posted by: Marilyn Hacker at January 29, 2008 6:51 PM

    I support the rights of the Bedouin to be treated as equal citizens, and a more ecologically sensitive and sustainable Israel.

    Posted by: Jessica Simkovic, New York, NY at January 31, 2008 2:35 PM

    Stop Blueprint Negev

    Posted by: Joseph Gindi at January 31, 2008 3:14 PM

    Preserve the Negev.

    Posted by: Hilary, Cambridge at January 31, 2008 3:24 PM

    Israeli scholars such as Oren Yiftachel have done wonders to explain the terrible circumstances of the Negev Bedouin and the ruthlessness of most Israeli governments toward them.

    Posted by: Ian Lustick, Beth Am Israel at January 31, 2008 3:49 PM

    Please think spiritually -- care for ALL beings.

    Posted by: Ben Perchik, AmKolel at February 13, 2008 12:05 AM

    This is a moral issue. Please consider the human rights of the Bedouin.

    Posted by: Rain Zohav at February 13, 2008 3:32 PM

    Please protect the Negev.

    Posted by: Danny Musher at March 2, 2008 11:53 PM

    Please stop the Blueprint Negev plan.

    Posted by: Dani Shneyer at March 14, 2008 11:23 PM

    Stop Blueprint Negev.

    Posted by: Hillary B. Gordon at March 17, 2008 7:59 PM

    I support the rights of the Bedouin to be treated as equal citizens, and a more ecologically sensitive and sustainable Israel.

    Posted by: ana terreni. israel at March 23, 2008 3:32 PM

    I am continually outraged by the treatment of the Bedouin in the Negev. Have we not learned from Canada and the United States what happens when we force nomadic indigenous cultures onto "reservations"??? I wish Israeli government would regonize this flaw, and I wish the JNF would show more insight into this human rights atrocity. Not to mention--how sustainable is it REALLY to place hundreds of thousands of people in a desert where there is no water?! I don't see how this is in ANY way sustainable.

    Posted by: Courtney Robinson, Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation at March 31, 2008 12:22 AM

    As someone who was born 9 days after independence 60 years ago in Haifa and a strong supporter of Israel as a Jewish state, I request the government of Israel not make the mistake of turning peaceful people into possible adversaries. I also hope that any development in the Negev will respect and preserve the natural environment.

    Posted by: Israel Sushman at April 23, 2008 5:55 AM

    Protect the Bedouin.

    Posted by: andrea hollander at September 29, 2008 3:30 PM


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