Bedouin villages in the Negev

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Daphna J., Hasan G., Yehiel G., Michael Marmur, Avi Dabush; Translator: Natanya

The shift  took place as part of an interfaith event organized by the Rabbis for Human Rights  and the Council  for unrecognized villages.

Background for the visit: The villagers declared a non-violent protest in an effort to preserve the ancient cemetery where a Mekorot company wants to erect a water tower.

Khashim Za’nnih’ (Nose of Zena) is an unrecognized village located close to a hill that traditionally is the burial place of a wise / holy woman named Zena and the hill is in the shape of a nose. Therefore the name. The village which has existed since the Ottoman period has about 3500 inhabitants. There is no access road, transport, electricity, or clinic in the village, and no gardens nor a school. The children travel to the village of Abu Tlul, to towns in the area and even to Be'er Sheva to a school. They receive health services outside the village, Segev Shalom or Beer Sheva. Due to lack of service in the village and lack of educational settings, there is a high dropout rate, especially for girls. Water is provided to the village from a central pipeline and every family independently connects to the pipeline - except those who live too far from the source and who buy water in containers, which is very expensive. Keep in mind that in every Jewish community, small and large, the water is supplied to homes and neighborhoods.

About 70 people from the Negev and Jerusalem arrived. We were welcomed in the village by the head of the local committee of unrecognized villages,  Dr. Qaid al-Othmin and the village people.  We were given an explanation of the struggle of the village. Speakers on behalf of human rights rabbis spoke on the spiritual aspect: The Rabbi (newly graduated and a member of MW) Leah Shkadiel, chairman of the organization's executive committee, Rabbi Michael Marmor, CEO of the organization Avi Dabush, and a young Protestant pastor also spoke:  they spoke of the dead and the connection between the past, the present  and the future that we symbolize as we honor our loved ones' burial places. Yeela Ra'anan, a leader of We stand together, the Negev group, spoke of the importance of turning a spiritual connection of  a burial place to form a  concrete centre for Jewish-Arab activities and asked those present to use their  connections and influence in every possible way to find a just solution to Mekorot's plan: As the villagers said: You could build the water tower next to the cemetery, and not as planned on the cemetery, without compromising the quality and supply of water.

After a short, respectful (religiously neutral!) joint prayer, we went to view the cemetery that encompasses a stunning panoramic desert landscape - 360 degrees - in every direction. It was clear that the tombs or some of them are very ancient, in traditional Bedouin style.