Representatives of the Joint List, members of Hadash (the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality), and social activists will start a four-day march on Thursday, March 26, from unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev to the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. The hope of the marchers is to raise public awareness of the hardships faced by the persons living in these communities. The Joint List said that, at the end of the march, it will present to President Reuven Rivlin and the Knesset proposed legislation to recognize all 46 of these villages. About 100,000 Arab-Bedouin citizens live in unrecognized communities without basic infrastructure, including connections to the national water and electricity grids, local health services, paved roads, and public institutions of various types. Most of the communities do not have their own schools or daycare centers, requiring families to send their children long distances from home.
Representatives of the Joint List discussed the march with Rivlin when they met with him this week, as part of the president’s consultations on forming the new government. President Rivlin agreed to meet the marchers when they arrive in Jerusalem. The protest leaders anticipate that the president’s participation at the end of the march will contribute greatly in achieving its goals: advancing plans to provide full civil and municipal services to the currently unrecognized villages; creating a transportation infrastructure to serve these communities; realizing a balance between development on the one hand and environmental protection on the other; and establishing a special planning framework for the Bedouin villages under the auspices of the Regional Planning and Building Committee, while providing for significant representation by the villages themselves.
Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List and its leading member from Hadash, will participate in the march, along with other members of his party and representatives of unrecognized and other Bedouin communities. The march will start at Wadi an-Na’am and pass through a number of unrecognized villages before concluding in Jerusalem.
The master plan for recognizing the Bedouin communities is based on research conducted by the regional council for the unrecognized villages, and Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights, a nonprofit organization, in cooperation with Sidreh, an NGO for Bedouin Arab women in the Negev. The plan emphasizes the benefits of recognizing the villages for all residents of the Negev, both Arab and Jewish.