Following the 1948 War, the Bedouin population in the Negev Desert, in southern Israel, was forced to change its way of life. In 1953, the Israeli army ordered many of the Bedouins, among them those in the village of Al-Araqib, to abandon their lands for six months during which time the army performed military exercises; to this day, the right of the Bedouins to return to their land has not been recognized.

In contrast to their traditional way of life in the desert, many Bedouins were moved to permanent urban settlements where they suffered from unemployment, crime and an inability to adjust to an urban environment. In the 1950s, a small number of Bedouins managed to return to their land in the village of Al-Araqib and were joined by a number of families in the late 1990s who understood that if they did not return, they would lose the right to their home.

Because the villages are considered “unrecognized,” they have no infrastructure – no electricity or water, no health and educational services or road and sewage systems. The Israeli authorities have made the lives of the dwellers impossible. Those who returned suffer from constant destruction of their dwellings, classified as illegal, and of their agricultural crops. In 2009, the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael) began planting the Ambassadors Forest on the lands of Al-Araqib in an effort to complete the authority’s appropriation of the land, and to prevent Bedouins from using the land for housing or farming. Since July 27, 2010 until the end of 2013, the village was demolished 53 times. But the residents continue to struggle and live on their land.

Photos: Oren Ziv, Yotam Ronen, Keren Manor