A visit to the unrecognised village Al Zarnug

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Smadar Becker, Rafi Davidson (Reporting). Mohammad Dabsen, Hagit Saar-Shalem, Ruth Ariel; Translator: Natanya

Summary of a visit to the unrecognised village of Al Zarnug and the acquaintance with the high school

At the school we met with Munir Abu Kwider, the school secretary who told us about the community and the establishment of the first high school in an unrecognized village.

Munir said: "We are an unrecognised village. There are between two to six thousand people in the village. The village  has existed for many years, even before the founding of the state. This school, the first year, an Ort  high school is  new and  has now been opened. Next to it there is a elementary school. In the village are a cluster of gardens and also a health clinic were  located. Two weeks ago, public transportation, a bus,  enters the village. We belong to the council of Neveh Midbar.

We are divided.  There is a group that wants to move to and a group that does not. A small percentage wants to move. Rahat has no place for us to move to. Rahat is a big city where there are many young couples and there is no room.

I am the school secretary and the principal is Bruria Adam. The school has 130 students. The nearest settlement, opposite Navatim, is Hashem Zana. Part of the Abu Kwider family lives there. If there is an arrangement and we are recognisd, they will move here. There is a process of having the village  recognized with the  help of the association Bimkom. The initiative to build a school  came out from there We sent letters and made one demonstrations in front of the government buildings  in Be'er Sheva and the other in the village. Knesset members and leftists, Jews and Arabs from various organizations, participated in the demonstration. Thanks to this activity we succeeded. We are pressing for recognition for our village, to  the authority headed by Meir Maayan.

There was a tender for management of the school but the district manager determined that Bruria Adam would be the principal.

ORT assisted in getting the teachers. Before that the children went to school in Abu Tlul. Teaching began only after a month of the normal  school year because there was a general confusion. Still some of the high school students are studying in Segev Shalom and some in Abu Tlul and Aruer. There are currently pupils from the eighth to the tenth grade. The school has electricity. And the village uses solar energy. There is also a water pipe to the village and splits into pipes leading to the  houses."

"I served (in the army?) and I deserve the same as any citizen."

At the end of these words Smadar, from the organization of “standing together”: "We are active in the organization of Standing Together and two of us are members of Machsomwatch. Yesterday I took a train from Savidor in Tel Aviv.  There was an announcement  on the speaker stating that  the train was passing through some stops until Beersheva. One of the stops was that of Lehavim without mentioning Rahat,  although Rahat is the second largest city of all the stations mentioned and on  the signpost of the  station is written  "Lehavim-Rahat." This is another expression of the unequal treatment of the Arab population. Munir said that he is a member of the village committee. We suggested that he join our circle in the Negev of Standing Together and he said that that was his intention. And so Smadar introduced him to our Whatsapp  group.

An extract from an article from the Haaretz newspaper, August 25, 2019, which  is relevant and provides a background for understanding what we saw on the tour:

In preparation for the new school year, the right-wing organization Regavim sought an interim injunction to stop the establishment of a high school in the unrecognised Bedouin town of al-Zarnug in the Negev, but the district court rejected the order and approved the opening in the coming school year. The Negev Desert Regional Council of which  the village is in its area, claims that the  construction was completed even though it was actually set up in caravans. The decision in the principle petition which was filed by the association against the establishment of the high school is expected to be given at least in a few months. According to the village council, despite the agreement between the family and the state, the majority of residents are opposed to eviction. The local committee claims that the state did not abide by the agreement, signed in 1998, and that now most residents prefer recognition where they currently are resident.

Attorney Nariman Shehada-Zuebi, of Adalah who represented the village committee, said in response to the court decision: "Again, the Regavim Association wishes to advance its aspiration to dispossess the Bedouin residents, but this time cynically and cruelly  against the elementary right of children to education. Students and their families should be allowed to open the school gate without delay.” The organization of Sikui working for equality and partnership between Jews and Arabs said: "The state's decision to build a high school in the unrecognised village of al-Zarnug is welcome, necessary - and legal. The state's role in ensuring the right to education and education of all children in the country, and therefore its decision to establish a new high school is a decision in the right direction "

From: The right-wing organization Regavim petitioned for the construction and opening of the high school, which was established by the Neve Midbar Regional Council in the unrecognised Al Zarnug neighborhood in the Negev. The judge dismissed the motion for an interim injunction to prevent the opening of the school. https://www.haaretz.co.il/news/local/.premium-1.7767611