Building Bridges in the Negev

4 April 2019

Too many politicians are sowing fear and separation between Jews and Arabs in the charged atmosphere prior to the election. However, Jewish and Arab residents in the Negev are defying this rhetoric by coming together to create a better and shared future for their children.

Residents of Arad and the unrecognized neighboring villages of Tel Arad and El Fara bolstered trust and tolerance by celebrating collaborations between their residents in a gathering this past Tuesday.

In the presence of Arad Mayor Nissan Ben Hamo and Council of Unrecognized Villages Director Attia el-Assam, residents presented their collaborative projects, including Arabic and Hebrew courses, a theater project, and joint tourism initiatives.

“Peace you make between people,” Mayor Ben Hamo told the dozens at the gathering. “In the end, the conversation between people will dictate to the state what will happen…so our choice is to create a reality that we want and then the state will follow us.”

It all began when Jewish women in the town of Yerucham helped the Bedouin women of nearby Rahmeh establish a day care center so they could be free to work. Activities such as first aid courses for women, agricultural seminars, and a women’s sewing workshop, have sprouted in neighboring localities. As a result of these joint efforts, Bedouin homes slated for demolition in an unrecognized village near the city of Arad were saved when Mayor Ben Hamo intervened.

The activities and the conference were conducted under the guidance of the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civic Equality, the Council of Unrecognized Villages in the Negev, Atid Bamidbar, and Shatil.