A man should not die of starvation when bread is beside him

by: Moshe Balmas

My generation had no future

A dirt road leads from the main road into the unrecognized village of Amra-Tarabin near the Omer. Piles of trash are all around. Courtyards surrounded by tin fences and low gray houses. A barefoot child plays with his ball in the midst of the junk. Behind him, a new neighborhood is being built in the modern town of Omer. The contrast between the poverty of the village and the affluence of Omer wounds the heart

The Tarabin a-Sana people were displaced by the State of Israel four times. The first time was in 1951 from Khasif area (south from the modern town of Ofakim) to Tel Albehira area near Tel Malhata. The second time was in 1952. They where driven to Wadi Na'am near Ramat Hovav. From there they moved again in 1962 to Amra, now near Omer. Nowadays half of the Tarabin a-Sana are still near Omer. The other half was once more relocated in 2005 to a new settlement, Tarabin, south of Gva'ot Bar.

I visited the Anwar Tarabin in his shiq. Anwar insists on staying in this place and refuses to move to the new settlement of Tarabin despite the harsh conditions in which his family is living in. I want to understand why.

Israel Lands Administration (ILA) recently published a propaganda video in which it presents the new village Tarabin a-Sana as a successful example and as a correct model for the re-settlement of the Bedouins living in unrecognized villages. The film shows the new settlement homes from a bird's point of view. It's rather difficult to judge how the situation there really is.

"My generation had no future," Anwar Tarabin, age 51 says with grief. "A young man married, he wished to build a home and have a life, but we were not allowed to.

I spent my entire life in these shacks."

A new neighborhood in Omer

Why don't you move to Tarabin?

One can not move to Tarabin even if he wanted to because all the plots for housing are already taken. There is now a new unrecognized village just outside Tarabin. The residents of this new governmentally-sponsored unrecognized village are the people who agreed to move from here but they cannot get a plot for a house just yet.

The plots that they were promised in Tarabin are all taken by the first wave of families who moved there. The first families that moved to Tarabin where promised lots of things. The government had obliged them to keep the agreements they made a secret. Some of the promises were fulfilled and some were not. Since there is no way of knowing what was agreed these families wouldn't let anyone use these plots.

The government tells the latecomers to wait and offers them no solutions. Meanwhile they are living in tin shacks, waiting for the government to keep its promises – a plot and an option for a building permit within the new village of Tarabin. Hundreds of people are living in the same conditions in which they lived here. This is what they receive in return to their consent to re-locate.

Childhood in Tarabin

Is this the reason you decided to stay here?

No. I want to stay here or build a house in Omer.

In 1962 the state transferred the tribe here. In 1974, the Land administration gave the tribe 800 acres in this area. I've lived here all my life under these horrible conditions. Why do I need to leave now when this area has finely become attractive? To let Pini Badash (mayor of Omer) have the "only rich people's community" he wants? Or, have his "Settlement for Jews only"?
I'm entitled to compensation. I want my home to be here or in Omer. I belong here.

Why did half of the tribe move to Tarabin if there are no solutions there?

There are many reasons. First of all the State has made our lives here unbearable. Omer municipality had started harassing the village back in the '90s. They built a fence inside the village and removed some of the houses. They blocked the passage to Omer from our direction. We destroyed the fence. The court ruled that they should open the way, but the passage remained closed. The Police is working with Omer (the chief of police is Omer mayor's nephew) and sometimes contrary to the decisions of the courts. Now they build a new neighborhood in an area that was part of the village. The police was sent to harass us. They put a road block on the road to the village and every car that was going in or out was delayed for half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the evening. They searched the cars and the documents just to harass us. People where fed up.

Other than that they lured the people in all kinds of temptations and all kinds of promises: some kept and some where not. All agreements made with the people were confidential and one was not to tell others what was agreed. The government gave some people more and gave less to others. That policy created jealousy, suspicion and mistrust among the residents and caused internal conflicts.

Those who live Tarabin do not live in one community even though they are family. The majority regrets that they agreed to move. Their revenge is that they do not allow others to get plots.


Why did people agree to sign such agreements on the first place?

That was a mistake. The government took advantage of the weaknesses of the community. People here were very poor and unorganized. They were easily seduced. The government has identified the people that can be used for this purpose, giving them benefits to persuade others. The Authority for the Settlement of the Bedouin and The of Israeli Land Administration representatives appointed these people as the village representatives without anyone else choosing them. The man who led this group received from the government 300 acres for farming and another one who helped him had won about 40 acres and other benefits that no one knows exactly, for their efforts to help the authorities to advance the process. Since the contents of all these agreements were kept secret and since some of the promises were made orally, no one knows exactly what his rights are and most commonly people think they are getting too little.

Do you believe that you will receive a plot in Omer?

I intend to fight for my rights and tell anyone who is willing to listen what is really the case here. Omer is building a new neighborhood of about a hundred houses set on an area that was part of the village. The association that organized the construction said that they will not populate the houses if the Bedouins will still be here. Look how quickly they build. They are going to finish soon and then we'll see what happens. For the Bedouins there are never places or plans. The only plan for us is of intimidation, divide and rule and corrupting people.

We made a tour in the new neighborhood and stoped in front of some of the luxurious villas. "You know …" Anwar tells me thoughtfully, "a man should not die of starvation when bread is beside him."


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