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Um El-Hiran and Atir By Alwine Van Heemstra

A nearby ďŹ ring zone

Um El-Hiran and Atir Two Bedouin villages in the Negev, the semi-desert in the south of Israel. The villagers received an eviction order. The government wants to clear this area as they need the land for a new Jewish settlement, Hiran. Although always having been loyal to the Israeli Government, many of Israel’s 100.000 relatively unknown Bedouins are forced to leave their homes through eviction orders. These unrecognised villages are difficult to find. There are no signs nor exits leading to them. We pass small villages. A few houses huddled together, most build of corrugated iron some of stone. At every entrance to these villages is a sign: Danger fire area to indicate a military training ground. Saleem Abu el-Qian tells how the Israelis have placed a fence round their cemetery so the villagers cannot visit their dead anymore. He takes us to his village Atir. We pass a sign dog breeding farm. Saleem points to an enormous farm building with big barns. ‘One Jewish family lives there on 500 hectares. Land allocated to them by the Government, while we live with more then a thousand people, ten thousand

goats and camels on 35 hectares.’ The Abu el-Qian family, spread over the villages Um al-Hiran and Atir is surrounded by three such farms. They are called landholders and safeguard the landscape. They do get water and electricity from the government and are connected to the internet. We drive up a steep climbing dirt road. Saleem skilfully circumvents the deep potholes. In the village life seems mundane. Children are playing, women are doing their washing. The men are waiting for us. The village elder Musa Hsin Abu el-Qian, ninety years old, was present the day the Israeli Army transported his family to this place. He is one of the few still wearing traditional dress. A dark grey robe with crosswise leather straps. ‘June the 4th, 1956 they brought us here in four army vehicles. We came from Wadi Zubeleh with 100 family members. They had destroyed our tents. They told us we had to settle here, this was our land to do with as we pleased. They gave us guns to defend ourselves as we are close to the Jordan border. The only water was 40 km away, which we had to get with our donkeys. The government planted trees and dug wells. Now they come and want the land back’. Saleem concurs. ‘We paid a lot of money for the water but they took it away again.’

A nearby farm

In 1999 a flood took three girls from their tent. They died. At the time Ariel Sharon was the minister for infrastructure. He came to Atir to tell the people they could build stone houses. Then the same Ariel Sharon decided to demolish these houses. Already one house has been demolished. There was a lot of violence. Ten people were severely injured and a lot of arrests were made. People had to pay heavy fines. A court of law ruled the demolishing unlawful as the eviction order had come too late. There is a new eviction order. ‘This time I don’t believe we’ll survive. We won’t leave our houses,’ says Saleem. Thanks to the help of Adalah- The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the eviction order has been postponed. However, the villagers of Atir and Um al-Hiran know that the bull dozers can arrive any time. Just recently, on the 9th of May 2007 the Bedouin village Tawil Abu Jarwal was entirely demolished. At 09:30, police forces arrived and demolished all 30 huts and tents. This is the sixth time that the police have demolished the village.

Musa Hsin Abu El Giaan

Sara Abu el Giaan

Sjeik Halil Abu Al Giaan

Saleem Abu el Giaan

Atir and Um el Hiran  

Two Bedouin villages in theNegev, the semi-desert in thesouth of Israel.

Atir and Um el Hiran  

Two Bedouin villages in theNegev, the semi-desert in thesouth of Israel.