South Hebron Hills, Sansana (Meitar), a-Zarnug
Meitar Checkpoint and the Unrecognized Bedouin village of A-Zarnug
This was the first in a series of observations in the wake of home demolitions in Negev Bedouin villages (within Israel)
Note: There are some 35 unrecognized Bedouin villages in Israel that is villages with no infrastructure, piped water, electricity or master plan. An additional 11 villages were recognized over the last decade but here two no master plan has been implemented/ This means that residents cannot get planning permission to build homes and other structures and also suffer from lack of infrastructure etc. Government policy is aimed at the demolition of the 35 villages and the removal, if necessary by force, of the residents to Government planned townships. The latter also suffer from poor infrastructure, overcrowding, unemployment with resulting high crime rates and social unrest. Furthermore, residents of the townships are not immune to house demolitions.
At the Meitar checkpoint we witnessed the usual Sunday morning crush which was very severe. However, everyone finally got through. There were few attempts by "shabachim" (Palestinians not holding entry permits to Israel), perhaps waiting until the guards relaxed a bit after the rush hour, or until the departure of the police detail. The checkpoint is staffed externally by private security guards but the actual security check inside the terminal is carried out by the army. We are not permitted to enter that area but can observe only from without.
We returned to Beersheva to collect our guests and drove the 30 minute distance on Route 35 to A-Zarnug. Here we met Mohammad Abu Kweidar who took us to the site of his uncle's home which was recently demolished. During 2018 there was a sharp increase in home demolitions in the Negev, over 2000 - more than all the houses demolished in the occupied West Bank in that year. This number includes homes and other structures (animal pens, sheds etc.) and also a significant number of structures demolished by their owners. On receipt of a Order to Demolish, many people prefer to undertake this task themselves rather than face the possible cost of paying the State for the demolition as well as preventing the trauma of demolitions by the State, accompanied by large numbers of police and, mostly, violence.
A-Zarnug is a village of some 5000 residents and actually a fine elementary school. There are plans to open a high school, the authorities permitting. Most residents work outside the village, including women which is unusual. A major problem for the village is overcrowding which prompts many households to build "illegally" in the absence of planning permission. Our contact Mr Mohammad Abu Kweidar, took us to the site of the his uncle's home, now a heap of rubble. The building "violation" in question was an addition to the home. The authorities determined that the addition exceeded the boundary of the village (a village that is not recognized and, as stated, has no master plan. So just where the boundary might be is not clear!) Not only was the addition demolished but the whole house, the area surrounding it and even the Tabun - the oven for baking bread. The photographs tell the story.
Mohammed told us that his seven year old sun built a "house" out of mattresses, pinned on it a note "Demolition Order" in Arabic and then proceeded to demolish his "building". Apparently there is a psychologist at the school but the trauma of demolitions is not dealt with. This one story among many, not only at A Zarnug but throughout the Negev.