Traditional Experiences with the Bedouin tribes of the Negev Highlands

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Sahel-Al-Bager Community (Ramat Ztiporim)

Ramat Tziporim is the name for the area near Ben Gurion College (Midreshet Ben Gurion). In this area live members of the Abu-Zeid, Abu-Jalidan, and Abu-Assa families. The village's name comes from "Wadi Bagar" (Boker stream) nearby.

This Bedouin community’s establishment was approved for legalization in 2015 by the governmental sub-committee for principled planning issues.

This Bedouin community’s establishment was approved for legalization in 2015 by the governmental sub-committee for principled planning issues. But the community lost its legal status after the committee reversed its decision and authorized the permanent settlement in nearby Abde instead.

Approximately 41 families, comprising about 200 people, live in the village, including a large group of young unmarried people aged 20 and over. The village is located near Ben-Gurion College. In this area live members of families from the Ziyadin tribe; from the Azzama tribe (Abu Zeid, Abu Jalidan, and Abu Assa).

Unlike the other Bedouin villages, only a few residents engage in farming, animal husbandry, or agriculture. Still, a few residents have large herds of sheep and camels. Most residents work outside the village. An even larger group of women work predominantly at the Ben Gurion College and in Kibbutz Sde Boker in various jobs. The village also has a private business for trucking, earth moving, and waste disposal. Only one access road leads to the village through a junction with the main 40 route. There is only one water pipe to which the residents connect with smaller water pipes.

Children return home from the school in nearby Abda with a school bus. Photography: Ezry Kiedar

In 2014, the National Planning and Construction Council approved the plan of the Israel Lands Administration and the Authority for Regulating Bedouin Settlements in the Negev to establish the village of El Bagar. It was decided to call it “Ramat Tziporim” and that it would gather all the Bedouin communities in the Negev Mountains area, spreading over about a thousand dunams of land.

The residents of Sahel Al-Bagar – Ramat Tziporim received the news of this decision with joy. Since 2000, they have been in contact with the state to erase the eviction orders issued against them and gain recognition of their village. For years, they dragged themselves from one courtroom to another, from one planning committee to another. Finally, the long-awaited recognition was due to arrive. But this was not the end of the story. The Bedouin Settlement Regulation Authority appealed the committee’s decision and requested that the district committee for planning and construction reconsider its decision. Under pressure from the authority, the committee reversed its decision. It consequently recommended canceling the original plans for “Ramat Tziporim” and establishing the main settlement in Abde instead. To the disappointment of the village’s residents, on May 7, 2019, the National Planning and Construction Council approved the plan to establish Abde and canceled the plans for Sahel-Al-Bagar.

Hillail Abu Jalidan, one of the leaders of the Yishuv, testified before the planning committee as follows:

“I am Abu Jalidan from Ramat Tziporim. My father already lived in this land. My grandfather lived in this land. And we all live in this land. The Bedouin administration came, and they promised that they would establish a settlement there. We said Ahalan u-sahalan (greetings). We wanted this village. Now they are coming to transfer us to Abde… We welcome Abde, but we will not move there. No one can oblige us how to live. I am Bedouin. I want to continue being a Bedouin. I can’t go up to the third floor and sit up there. I am Bedouin. I sleep in my tent. This is my life, just like that. That is all I wanted to say.”

The Bedouins in the Negev Highlands want to preserve at least something of the traditional way of life of their ancestors, who pitched tents and grazed in the open spaces of the Negev.

Source: Document from the Shepherds’ Shelters in the Negev Mountains by “Bimkom” NGO