Silvia Boarini

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Bedouin Land is a visual journey exploring the life of a forgotten minority and its tie to the land.

Settled and made to bloom under the leadership of Ben Gurion, the Negev has always been Israel's very own new frontier. The Jewish National Fund calls it ‘a land reserve waiting to be developed.’ This slice of Southern Israel, though, is also home to some 175.000 Bedouins. Dispossessed and marginalised, their development has been inversely proportional to the fantastic growth of Jewish communities in the area.

Haia Noach, director of the Arab-Jewish NGO ‘Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality’, thinks redressing the current status quo is the only road to a peaceful future.

"We are seeing the clash happening but it is as if nobody from the government is taking notice” she argues. “We have now reached the core of the matter: land. Bedouins will not give up on that. This could burst into a conflict situation and that’s frightening and very concerning.”  

It was in 1951, soon after the establishment of the state of Israel, that Bedouins were forcibly moved off their lands in an apparent effort to urbanize the desert.

Confined to live in a military-controlled zone known as the Siyag until 1966, they were soon once again being pushed to resettle in seven government-planned townships near Beersheva, with promises of jobs, agricultural land and good infrastructure.

As the years went by, it became clear that many evacuated Bedouin sites were being redeveloped as Jewish settlements, that tribal lands were earmarked for afforestation and that the new townships were just another way to group Bedouins within a confined area.

Therefore, in order to reclaim both their original place in the desert and their rights as Israeli citizens, many families took the step of returning ‘illegally’ to their lands in the open spaces of the Negev.

"We are not invaders”, explains Nuri El Ockbi of the centre for Bedouin Rights, “we belong here. We have been on this land for generations. I am an Arab and an Israeli citizen. There is space for everybody here."  

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Bedouin Land .


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