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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photo courtesy of Bustan

Some 50-80,000 Bedouin live in "unrecognized" villages where they have limited or no access to basic services or political representation. Almost all of the so-called "unrecognized" Bedouin villages subject to demolition were created when the IDF moved the Bedouin out of the majority of the Negev into the triangle defined by Beersheva, Arad and Dimona, an area called the Siyaj (from the Hebrew siyag, "fence"), back in the 50's. (Some villages were already established in this area at the time that the state of Israel was created.) [Click icon to view map]
What it means to say these villages are "unrecognized" is that Israel's goverment has refused, for decades on end, to provide health care, electricity or water to them. Because these villages officially don't exist, Israel has been legally free to site power plants, toxic waste dumps, and other hazards on top of them. (You can see the power lines and smokestacks over power-less Wadi el-Naam in the photo.)

The government's policy has been to force all the Bedouin to move into small cities, sometimes called "urban townships", (the only places where they can officially receive government services), so that they will "take up" less land. The Bedouin who want to live in these townships have to give up any land claims in order to move there. The effect of moving the Bedouin into these cities, which rank at the very bottom of every economic scale except unemployment, is to wipe out Bedouin culture. Whether it is intentional or not, this combination of efforts to uproot the Bedouin has turned the villages in the Siyaj into a battleground where the survival of Bedouin culture is under constant threat. The worst case scenario is what happened to A-tir and Um al-Hiran, which were demolished to make room for two new Jews-only suburbs. Haaretz reported:

The residents of the village[s of A-tir and Um al-Hiran] have been living there for 51 years. They were transferred to the site in 1956 while under martial law. The land they originally owned was transferred to Kibbutz Shoval, while the Bedouin were leased 3000 dunam of land for agriculture and grazing. The government approved the establishment of Hiran in 2002, and in 2004 the state submitted a court order claiming that residents of Al Hiran should be evacuated as they are using state lands without permission.

Click here to read about a project of the Reform movement's Israel Religious Action Center to help one of these villages.

Click here to connect with Dukium, the Negev Coexistence Forum, which works on getting these villages recognized.

View a detailed map of the Negev showing unrecognized Bedouin villages, alongside recognized Bedouin villages, Jewish rural communites and cities, etc:



Design in progress © Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg 2006