Sivan 14, 5777
June 8, 2017
The Major “Barely Reported” Story of the Day:
44,478 Acres of Land Ownership in the Negev Decided
On the one hand, the amount of land seems like a drop in the bucket. The Israeli Negev Desert consists of 4,700 sq miles of land or 3,000,800 acres of land. In fact, the total land area of the Negev is more than half of Israel’s total land area.
But to anyone who has ever driven from Be’ersheva to Eilat on Highway 40, as your humble servant has done on numerous occasions, today’s announcement was momentous. Anyone taking that drive will immediately become aware of Bedouin sprawl. On both sides of the road for miles and miles, there are literally thousands of random Bedouin settlements–most of which are on state land which was appropriated as such in the 1950s.
However, the state land was unregistered.
Ayelet Shaked, Israel’s Minister of Justice, revealed today that 44,478 acres of land west of Highway 40 south of Beersheva has now been officially registered as state land. This was no small effort by the Justice Ministry–taking more than a year.
The registration has two practical effects:
First, home owners in this area can register the home in his or her name.
Second, no Bedouins will now be able to set up house in the western Negev on the basis of land claims or land rights.
This second point is critically important as a component of controlling illegal construction. As you may or may not know, the Negev Bedouin growth rate may be the highest in the world: doubling every fifteen years. In 1999, 110,000 Bedouins lived in the Israeli Negev; in 2013, the number was 210,000. Today the number is estimated at 230,000.
Whereas Bedouins traditionally roamed from place to place looking for grasses for their flocks, today’s Israeli Bedouins roam nowhere. They build permanently-placed metal corrugated homes complete with satellite receivers, air conditioners, and indoor toilets–and they bring hay and other foodstuffs to their sheep and other animals. This is not to say that young shepherds cannot still be seen pushing sheep from place to place; however, it is place to place within a very limited area around the family’s home site.
But of course, most Bedouins are not shepherds at all. They work in companies and factories–particularly in the Be’ersheva area.
The point today is that the efforts of the Justice Ministry will hopefully expedite Bedouin transition to a more urban mode of residence by limiting the amount of space on which Bedouins can build their homes. As can be noted from the picture above, the sheer population explosion is already pushing Bedouins in that urban direction.