Majid Abu Balal, now 46, was born in the unrecognized village of Umm al-Hiran. “My family left Umm al-Hiran when I was six and moved to Rahat, which was then a new city and is the first and only city set up for Israel’s Bedouin community,” he says. “My parents dreamed of a better life and a more promising future for their children.”
Abu Balal is a leader on multiple issues. He is now the director of Tsad Kadima (A Step Forward) – the Association for Conductive Education in Israel. The organization was founded by families and professionals in the Negev Bedouin city of Rahat and runs educational-rehabilitative centers nationwide for children and adults with cerebral palsy and development disabilities.
He is also an activist in Standing Together, a grassroots initiative that aims at building a broad Jewish-Arab movement grounded in the principles of peace, equality and social justice.
Speaking about Israel’s Bedouin population he says, “The social situation in the peripheral regions and especially the Bedouin-Arab sector is very difficult. In education, in economics, in welfare, our community is at the bottom of every ladder and ranking. I’ve taken responsibility and I have the ability to bring about change in order to ensure that my children’s lives will be different.”
He continued, “I joined Standing Together because I see it as the last hope for significant change in our country. There are many issues of mistrust, and obstacles of language dividing the people. But the only struggle I genuinely believe in is a joint Jewish-Arab one. Only that can influence the dialogue in Israel. Alone none of us can succeed.”