Al-ʿArāgīb is an unrecognized village* west of Route 40, between Lehavim and Goral Junctions. Until the state began repeated demolitions in the village in 2010, around 400 people lived there. Today, a few dozen residents remain, in the vicinity of the village cemetery, continuing to wage a struggle against its destruction. Within the area of the village there are ancient cisterns, a cemetery founded in 1914, old huts and several dams.
The village of al-ʿArāgīb was established during the Ottoman period, on land that the village’s inhabitants purchased at the time. In 1951, the military regime ordered the village’s residents to evacuate temporarily for six months, claiming that the state required the land for army training sessions. After six months, in which the inhabitants lived near their lands and in other parts of the Negev, the authorities sought to delay their return for another few months, eventually informing the inhabitants that they were forbidden to return to the village. Over the course of the years the people of al-ʿArāgīb never left their lands and their village, they kept on cultivating their fields, grazing their herds in the village’s area and burying their dead in the family’s cemetery. During the 1970s the village’s residents submitted multiple claims of land ownership to the settlement officer.
In 1997, Jewish National Fund (JNF) workers began to work in the lands of al-ʿArāgīb. The residents complained about the work in land for which they had sued for ownership, and the JNF left. Beginning in the year 2000, the villagers began to cultivate the lands and sow the fields. In response, the state began to spray the fields and plough them over, in order to destroy the crops. In the beginning of the 2000s, members of the Abu-Madigem family – one of the families that had lived in the village until 1951 – returned to live on their lands in al-ʿArāgīb.
Services and Infrastructure
Al-ʿArāgīb does not receive health and education services. In order to receive them, the residents must travel to the city of Rahaṭ, six kilometers away, a half-hour trip that can often take up to an hour because of traffic at Lehavim Junction.
The village is not connected to the national electricity grid, and the residents use generators and solar panels to supply their own electricity. Since the village is also not connected to the water supply, the inhabitants are forced to transport water in containers – an expensive process which also negatively impacts the water quality – a distance of eighteen kilometers.
Al-ʿArāgīb bacame an unrecognized village. On July 27, 2010, the entire village was demolished by the state, and since then the security forces have returned several dozen time to demolish it again. At the same time several legal disputes relating to the village have been going on, – firstly, about the lands of the village, of which the residents claim ownership; and secondly, regarding a suit the state has filed against the residents about the cost of the demolitions. There are also several cases open against residents of the village who have been placed with sundry charges during the struggle. On June 12, 2014, all structures within the village’s cemetery compound, in which the residents had been living for the past few years, were also demolished.
The residents continue to wage a struggle for their village, which in addition to the legal aspect includes a civil struggle that includes a weekly protest vigil at the nearby Lehavim Junction, rallies, demonstrations and more. The residents want the state to recognize their village in the location it is in today, and to allow them to live in an agricultural settlement on their own lands.
*The unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev are villages that the state of Israel does not recognize and refers to them as a “diaspora” and sometimes as “illegal villages”. Amongst these villages are some villages which are historic villages since they exist in their location prior to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Other villages are in their present location as a result of villages which were destroyed in the 1950s and their residents have been ordered by the authorities to move from their original place to the new one (internally displaced).
During the 1950s the state started to concentrate the Arab Bedouins into the Sayag area, between Beer Sheva, Arad and Dimona. A military rule was imposed on the Bedouin. Much of the lands in the Negev were declared state lands and in 1965 following the Planning and Construction Law, much of the land was declared as agricultural land and therefore all houses and buildings on these lands in general and in the unrecognized villages in particular became automatically “illegal buildings”.
In fact, the state does not recognize the historical villages nor does it recognize the villages to where Bedouin residents were moved in the 1950s by the authorities. The residents of the unrecognized villages get very little governmental services and in most cases no services at all. In all the unrecognized villages there is no infrastructure. For example, primary school exists only in 16 villages and health clinics only in 10.
Source: Negev Coexistence Forum website