A visit to Rahat

Yehudit K (reporting), M.D.

South Hebron Hills and a visit to the Bedouin city of Rahat

This was an afternoon shift. At Mitar checkpoint a sluggish stream of workers returning home for the end of Fast meal. Only a few "yellow" (Palestinian servis taxis) taxis and people were trying to grab rides with any passing vehicle, many of whom did oblige.  Route 60 was busy mostly with Palestinian vehicles, it seems the Israelis are home during these hours. On Route 317, relatively lively traffic, although light for all that. Its an area of settlements and very poor Palestinian villages as well as the town of Yatta.  The Israelis on this road, once again were scarcely to be seen.

We were invited by H.G. a member of Standing Together, the national movement for social and political change to visit three poor neighbourhoods in the Bedouin town of Rahat: Al Median, Alsanabal and Compound 28. HG is the founder and director of a charity "Ibn AlHaritan" (Sons of the Neighbourhoods) which provides informal educational and cultural activities for residents of the three neighbourhoods which are the "periphery" of Rahat. The neighbourhoods are home to 3000 people and although they are part of the town the conditions are closer to those of an unrecognized village: there is no electricity and no running water. We heard from the residents about their frustration and anger at the difficult conditions. We have meanwhile been informed by M.C., another member of Standing Together that the area is designated as a park for the benefit of all citizens of the town and that the residents have been offered solutions to their plight, some of which have been rejected by some, but not all, residents. Negotiations continue in the hope of reaching an agreement.  This report cannot provide an in-depth analysis of the situation and we are reporting what we heard from two, known and credible, sources. It must be remembered that the Municipality of Rahat can propose, initiate, and plan but the notorious Authority for the regulation of Bedouin Settlement which operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture, is the final arbiter of what actually takes place.  Please note that Rahat is expanding rapidly, there is a shortage of lots for building new houses and a lack of open communal spaces. Residents of the three neighbourhoods mentioned are also caught within that situation. We were joined on the visit by members of Standing Together MW and the Forum for Coexistence (N.G. S.B.R.D. D.D.)