On August 18, 70 concerned citizens gathered in Be’er Sheva’s Youth Center for a conference sponsored by SHATIL's Umbrella Forum for Bedouin Education in the Negev. The conference was called following the tragic deaths of four Bedouin children who were killed on the way to school in substandard transport on unpaved, hazardous roads in unrecognized Bedouin villages.
Dr. Awad Abu Freih, coordinator of the Forum, said: “Children get off their school busses surrounded by dust on narrow, unpaved roads and are trampled by oncoming drivers who can’t see them.” According to Abu Freih, the lives of at least 10,000 children are in danger.
“We demand that the government pave roads between the unrecognized villages and the schools,” Abu Freih told several media outlets.
From left to right - Knesset Member Talab El-Sana; Ibrahim Alatras, Chairman
of the parents committee in Alatras School; Dr. Awad Abu Freih, Coordinator
of SHATIL's Umbrella Forum for Bedouin Education in the Negev
The Forum has been fighting for safer roads for ten years and the Supreme Court twice backed its demands. The conference, which featured Knesset Members, academics, lawyers, government officials, representatives of parents’ organizations from Negev Bedouin villages and other activists, aimed at creating a multi-sector discourse about this untenable situation and at garnering additional support for the struggle.
During the conference, which was dedicated to the four children, participants stood for a moment of silence in memory of Salman AlAtras, 11; Iman Abu Asa, 8; Ahmad AlKasasi, 12; and Abed Naim AlSayad, 5.
The conference received wide coverage in Israeli newspapers, radio, television and Internet news sites and was co-sponsored by the High Follow Up Committee for Arab Education, the Israel Religious Action Center and the Regional Council of Unrecognized Arab Villages in the Negev.