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Meeting Urgent Needs in Bedouin Society in the Unrecognized Villages in the Negev due to the Iron Swords War[1]

  1. Protection (data and recommendations drafted in cooperation with Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights):[2]

           Approx. 120,000 residents live in 34 unrecognized villages in the Negev. Over the years, due to rocket attacks from Gaza, the unrecognized villages have faced injury to life and property. These reached a peak during the Iron Swords War: since the outbreak of the war, 16 residents of the villages have been killed in rocket attacks. Moreover, since many of the recognized Bedouin communities face a significant shortage of protected spaces, the serious impact has been felt across the Bedouin population in the Negev. A key reason for this is the lack of protected spaces in homes, shelters, and mobile shelters

Although the residents of the unrecognized villages have been hit by rockets over the years and have repeatedly demanded protection, these communities have been left without a response. The authorities do not permit the purchase of mobile shelters due to concern that these will be used as permanent buildings in these villages, thereby granting them official recognition. In light of Hamas’s attacks during the current war, the immediate provision of permanent or temporary mobile shelters is an emergency need. Since most of the damage is not caused by direct rocket strikes but by fragments, any element that can reduce the damage is urgently needed. Mobile shelters could be provided, but even a temporary solution in the form of large concrete cylinders could help; each cylinder can protect up to 12 people. Although these cylinders do not meet protection standards, they can offer a lifesaving layer of protection adding to that provided by the Iron Dome system. This is preferable to a situation in which the residents have no protection at all.

According to the statistics in our possession, approx. 10,000–11,000 mobile shelters are required for the 120,000 citizens who live in unprotected villages, based on a key of 12 people per facility. Several civil society organizations, including Bimkom, are accompanying the efforts by residents in this field and mapping the current situation in terms of existing and lacking mobile shelters. Demands by residents of the villages to establish shelters are monitored through an application – see here for the mapping. As of the time of writing, the map includes 209 locations at which residents have requested protection. Each point on the map indicates such a location, whether one or more mobile shelters are required. To date, approx. 220 mobile shelters have been supplied by various bodies. The mapping process is ongoing and it may be assumed that additional locations will be marked over the coming days.

There is an extremely urgent need in 20 villages – see the table of data at the end of this document. A total of around 2,100 mobile shelters are needed in these communities, where the current total is just 74.

To the best of our understanding, the Home Front Command’s procedure for placing mobile shelters requires that the local authority requests this. Since we are currently in an emergency period when the residential areas of Bedouin residents are being targeted frequently by rockets, it is appropriate to amend this procedure and to process in addition requests forwarded by the associations active on the ground. Insofar as a need emerges for contact people familiar with the grassroots, civil society organizations can meet this need and provide the necessary information. Given the situation, the state should take proactive steps to ensure basic security and protection for its citizens. Mobile shelters and other means of protection should be provided for all Bedouin residents in the Negev facing a tangible threat of injury from rockets, both in unrecognized communities and in the recognized communities.

           Our recommendations:

  1. The state should provide permanent or temporary mobile shelters for Bedouin residents in recognized and unrecognized communities at the points marked on the map as soon as possible to save lives, provide safety and a sense of security for residents. When the mobile shelters are put in place, infrastructures should be established ensuring safe entry even when people are rushing, particularly at night in areas that are mostly unlit. By way of an immediate solution, mobile shelters can be positioned in public spaces and buildings: schools, clinics, transportation stops, mosques, and grocery stores.
  2. We recommend that representatives from the relevant government ministries and the Home Front Command maintain regular contact with civil society organizations and representatives of the villages who are undertaking the mapping to provide mobile shelters, ensuring full cover for all citizens in these areas.
  3. Informational actions should be undertaken in Arabic and in an adapted manner to inform residents and raise awareness of the importance of protection and of using the mobile shelters. The Abraham Initiatives is working to make public information and the Home Front Command instructions accessible in Arabic.
  4. Over recent weeks, the Home Front Command has launched a pilot protection program for a solution called Hesco, which provides protection against shock waves and fragments. Although this protection is partial and inadequate, insofar as it can save lives, it is important to expand its deployment, though not in place of other forms of protection as and when these can be deployed. However, we should note that this solution includes metal protuberances that endanger those who seek protection. If the use of this solution is extended, these protuberances must be removed or secured to reduce this risk.
  5. A mechanism should be developed to formalize the connection between the Home Front Command and the representatives of unrecognized villages in routine times and in emergencies, to facilitate the provision of appropriate protection and alert systems.
  6. Following the prompt supply of mobile shelters, a long-term solution should be found to the problem.
  7. Assisting the Families of Murdered and Kidnapped Persons

It is important that as far as possible assistance for these families is provided by Arabic-speaking workers and workers from Arab society in general, and the Bedouin population in particular. Full equality must be ensured in the services and assistance offered to Bedouin families, including linguistic and cultural adaptation.

  1. Reinforcing Psychological Resilience

Due to the phenomenon of violence and crime, Arab society was already suffering from impaired psychological resilience due to a lack of personal security even before this war. The events of the war are causing further damage to personal security and increasing levels of stress and anxiety. In the Bedouin communities in the Negev, and particularly in the unrecognized villages, residents feel exposed and defenseless in the face of rocket attacks, particularly in light of the large number of fatalities.

Accordingly, we recommend as follows:

  1. Relevant state institutions should investigate and map the scope of psychological damage among children.
  2. The state should act to raise awareness of the severe psychological ramifications of violence and crime among children in Arab society within Arab society itself. This should include guiding parents in ways to identify psychological problems in children and ensuring access to ways to address these problems.
  3. The goals of the Resilience Centers in Arab communities should be updated to include assistance for victims of anxiety against the background of violence and crime. It must be ensured that the centers employ Arab workers, or at least workers who speak Arabic. These centers should be budgeted in order to enable them to provide a response over the telephone, including anonymously, as well as short-term and long-term psychotherapy.
  4. Mental health services should be provided through schools, community centers, and HMOs: training should be provided in providing an initial response in Arabic, including cultural adaptation, for teachers and community instructors and medical and administrative staff in community clinics; additional staffing positions should be added for mental health experts at the existing clinics in Arab society; support groups should be established for parents, young people, and children.
  5. The state must address the grave shortage of psychologists, psychiatrists, and other therapeutic professionals in Arab society. Arab young adults should be encouraged to study the various therapeutic professions (particularly clinical specialization, all fields of psychology, and other professions). Obstacles facing Arab young adults who wish to study these professions should be identified and removed.

Villages at High Risk – Urgent Need for Mobile Shelters

Village Status Risk Mobile shelters (existing) Mobile shelters (required)
Kuhla Recognized Rocket strikes and fatalities (1st week of war) 64 1
Makhul Recognized Rocket strikes and fatalities (1st week of war) 72 0
Al-Bat Unrecognized Rocket strikes and fatalities (1st week of war) 37 4
Awajin Unrecognized Strikes in past; within Home Front 1 minute alert zone 97 3
Al-Makimen Unrecognized Strikes in past; within Home Front 1 minute alert zone 52 2
Al-Qarin East Unrecognized Beersheva Valley 48 0
Khirbet al-Watan Unrecognized Beersheva Valley 146 6
Bir al-Hamam/A-Rawis Unrecognized Beersheva Valley 206 5
Al-Ghara Unrecognized Beersheva Valley 76 10
Hasham Zana In process of recognition Beersheva Valley 155 7
A-Zarnuq Unrecognized Beersheva Valley 111 9
Bir al-Mashash Unrecognized Near Nevatim air force base 121 10
Sawa’a Recognized Near Nevatim air force base 281 2
Tel al-Malah Unrecognized Near Nevatim air force base 26 5
Bat a-Saraya Unrecognized Near Nevatim air force base 48 5
A-Sadir Unrecognized Near Nevatim air force base 23 0
Ras al-Jaraba Unrecognized Near the Nuclear Research Campus 46 1
Qasar a-Sar Recognized Near the Nuclear Research Campus 190 1
Umm Matnan Unrecognized Past rocket falls, near Ramat Beka 148 2
Abu Qarinat Recognized Near Ramat Beka 124 1
Total mobile shelters     2071 74

 

 

[1] Submitted to the Knesset’s Special Committee for Strengthening and Developing the Negev and Galilee December 2023.

[2] A majority of Bimkom’s funding is from foreign state entities, as published on the website of the Registrar of Associations.

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