On Thursday 5/4/23, members of the Israeli Board of Directors went on a field trip introducing ICA’s projects in the Bedouin sector in the Negev. We visited the village of “Alforaa” which is located near the city of Arad, this is a village defined as “unrecognized” or “unofficial” – this means that there are still legal proceedings and inquiries regarding the legality of the Bedouins’ settlement on these lands. The inspections and legal activity are ongoing for years and have not yet ended and as a result there are thousands of people in this village living without infrastructure such as electricity, sanitation, and roads.
We visited the school which facilitates about 1,500 pupils from the 1st to the 12th grade. The principal of the school and the project leading teacher presented us their wishes- using the fact that the school is not connected to the infrastructure – “off grid”- as an educational challenge. The school has a system that separates sewage waste into clean components and results with irrigation quality water. The school wants to expand the project and connect facilities to produce solar and wind energy, add a unit that will produce water from moisture in the air and more. We were very impressed by the involvement of the students in this activity.
Later we visited Hora – this time a recognized and official settlement which means they have a connection of developed infrastructures. The settlements administration presented their desire to increase the number of high school graduates and to increase the number of students in the settlement, especially in the fields of technology and engineering.
The last visit was to a project of employing women in agriculture while maintaining social conditions and the rights they deserve as workers. The project has not yet actually started since the plots of land had to be regulated for agricultural cultivation. Now that the preparation is complete, the program will start working this fall.
My impression is that the Bedouin sector is thirsty for progress in all areas of life and the more we manage to provide the Bedouin with the possibilities, the more we will increase the chances of integration into civil society with Jewish society. Currently, employment and income levels for Bedouin society in the Negev are extremely low.