Facts about the Bedouins

Basic information about this misunderstood community of southern Israel.

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-In February 2009, the average unemployment rate in all seven Bedouin townships was 16.2% (ranging from a high of 18.9% in Laqiyya to 12.2% in the large city of Rahat).

-Education has been one of the major vehicles of modernization for the Bedouin community in Israel. Within a single generation, since the Compulsory Education Law came into effect in 1949, illiteracy was reduced from 95% to 25%. Today the illiteracy rate in the Bedouin community has dropped to less than 10%, but approximately one third of those aged 45-59 and some 38% of those aged 60 and over are unable to read and write (2007 figures). 

-Schools in the Bedouin community are frequently housed in ill-equipped buildings, often not connected to electricity and water grids. Surveys conducted by the Israeli Ministry of Health in 2005 and 2006 in Bedouin townships pointed to the deteriorated level of sanitation in schools that serve the Bedouin educations system, in terms of cleaning, lack of restrooms, and lack of shaded playing areas. A large proportion of the teaching staff is uncertified and there are few school counselors, librarians and laboratory technicians. Drop-out rates are particularly high, and these schools report the lowest level of achievements in matriculation exams amongst all Arab sector schools in Israel; in 2008, only one sixth (700 out of 4,000) of Bedouin children with disabilities receive special education.

-In April 2010 Sheikh Hamad Abi Da'abas, a prominent Bedouin figure of the Islamic Movement in the Negev, was elected as the new head of the movement, replacing Sheikh Ibrahim Sarsur of Kufr Qassem, who served as the movement's head since 1998.

Land dispute

-The land disputes between the State and the Negev Bedouin centers on the lack of written deeds of sale and ownership in the Bedouin community, where land possession and land ownership is traditionally determined by custom.

-Bedouin manIsrael does not accept the legal validity of oral agreements between Bedouin tribes, and rejected Bedouin's claims for land ownership in large parts of the Negev.

-Thus, the ownership of some 160,000 acres occupied by the Negev Bedouin is under dispute. Of these, 87,000 acres are currently occupied by Bedouin encampments (also known as "unrecognized villages,"  see below) and 73,000 acres are used for grazing.

-Government agencies are deeply concerned with the uncontrolled expansion of Bedouin encampments which is considered an attempt to take over what is left of Israel's largest repository of unsettled land.

-The government is trying to settle the disputes and stop illegal construction in encampments by reaching compensation agreements, allocating alternative land in legal Bedouin townships (see below), and demolishing illegal constructions.

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The Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues is a coalition of North American Jewish organizations who are committed to the welfare of Israel and advocates for social and political equality for all its inhabitants, Jews and Arabs alike.