Dear Readers:

Last night I received a message from Devorah Brous, an internationally-renowned speaker on the Negev, Israeli Bedouins and greenwashing, and founder of BUSTAN, an NGO that works in the Bedouin and Jewish communities of the Negev. I met Devorah this summer, and she hooked me up with the new Director of BUSTAN, Ra’ed Al-Mickawi, who graciously spent the day with me, discussing the social, ecological and political history and current day issues facing people living in the Negev. One of the places we went to was Wadi el Na’am.

(Photo of Wadi el Na’am with Ramat Hovav in the background taken this summer 2008)

In the short time that we visited Wadi el Na’am, both Ra’ed and I became ill, with headaches, nausea and exhaustion. The village, deemed as an “unrecognized” village by the Israeli government, is surrounded by Ramat Hovav, which is home to 19 chemical plants (a subject to be returned to, as Ramat Hovav claims to be greening the Negev), and on the other side is a large power plant which you can see in the picture below.

I realize that for some, this will be entirely new information on the Negev and the treatment of Bedouins in the region. The time I spent with Bustan was incredibly eye opening for me, and undoubtedly this is one of those under-reported stories that next generation Jews must take into account with unflinching candor.

So, we’re going to do a few posts on this issue, as it’s a vast and important topic to cover. I’d been waiting on someone I know who’s doing some filming of the region, but in light of this call to action, I wanted to let people know about the work happening in the Negev.

Building an eco-sustainable mosque represents some of the best of what BUSTAN does, which is not to simply point out what is wrong, but to actively build a bolder, brighter vision across communities, offering solutions through sustainable environmental models and fair allocation of clean public resources.

Below is the call from Devorah:

An eco-built mosque (the first in Israel) is slated for demolition in the unrecognized village of Wadi el Na’am. This village is one of the worst places I’ve ever seen on earth – surrounded 360 degrees by heavy military and industrial infrastructure, many of the citizens living there are sick, they receive no services and are ‘on hold’ to be relocated to a government-planned town for the past few years with no date in sight. This move requires them to relinquish all land claims, and many Bedouin are resistant, through waging a non-violent struggle.

The Jews and Arabs that built this mosque are Israelis from BUSTAN, international volunteers, and a diverse mix of families from the village. We’re trying to stave the demolition – it is an inhumane way of forcing compliance and it seriously undermines work that many Jewish and Arab NGO’s are doing to build civil society in this dry, heavily contaminated, and extremely under-resourced part of the country.

BUSTAN calls for the Israeli government to negotiate with Bedouin leadership, these demolitions are a tactic employed by the Israel Land Administration that must be resisted. It is undemocratic. Please forward to this appeal to your lists and HELP in any way you can, to stop the pending demolition. This is NOT a democratic policy.

_________________________________________________

URGENT

November 17th, 2008

Wadi Na’am, Israel

The first mud and straw-bale built mosque in Israel received demolition orders late last week in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Wadi al Na’am, come help stop the demolition!
Volunteers are urgently needed starting this evening (Monday November 17th) to stay in the mosque through Thursday (November 20th) to protest and document any attempt to carry out the demolition.

To sign up for a shift, please email Tess at greencenter@bustan.org or call her at 050-371-1802, OR Josh Berer, 052 7500152, RCUV.

If you can arrive with a car to bring people to and from Wadi Na’am that is extremely helpful. We will make every attempt to provide transportation for those who need it.

There are 80,000 Bedouin Arabs currently living in 45 unrecognized villages in Israel that lack basic infrastructure, health care, electricity, and water access. Local Bedouins as well as Christian, Muslim, and Jewish volunteers from Israel, the United States, Europe, Latin America, and Africa have contributed to building the mosque over the last four months.

For more information about the mosque, please see this article from August 2008 and this post.

If you cannot make it, please fax or call the following officials to protest the demolition:

Itzhak HaKohen, the Minister of Religious Service
Fax: 02 6706157. izchakec@knesset.gov.il

Meir Shitrit, the Minister of Interior
Fax: 02 6408920. mshitrit@knesset.gov.il

Zeev Boim, the Minster of Housing and Construction, and Minister responsible for the Israeli Land Authority, and the Bedouin Minority.
Fax: 02-6496062. zaevb@knesset.gov.il

For press inquiries:

Mahmod Jarbeau at 057-466-2331 (Hebrew, Arabic) —resident of Wadi Na’am, served nine years in the Israeli military, director of the project Ra’ed Al Mickawi 052-371-1801 (Hebrew, Arabic, English)—Director of BUSTAN

Dr. Yeela Livnat Ra’anan 054-748-7005 (English, Hebrew)—RCUV

דחוף! צריכים מתנדבים לשהות במסגד בכפר הבדואי הבלתי מוכר וואדי נאעם.

למנוע הרס המסגד!

ביום חמישי המדינה שמה צו הריסה על מסגד בוואדי נאעם. אנו מודאגים שהמדינה תהרוס את המסגד כבר השבוע. אנו קוראים לכם להצטרף אלינו ללינה במסגד בשלושת הלילות הבאים (לילות שני – רביעי 17 – 19 לנובמבר), בכדי לנסות למנוע את הריסת המסגד!

לכל אלה אשר יכולים להצטרף, נא ייצרו קשר עם טאס, מעמותת בוסטאן, טל: 0503711802 או אימייל,greencenter@bustan.org , או להתקשר לג’‘וש מהמועצה האזורית לכפרים הבלתי מוכרים: 052750015.

מסגד זה נבנה בחודשים האחרונים על ידי מתנדבים מהארץ ומכל העולם, ביחד עם תושבי וואדי נאעם. הוא משמש כמרכז תרבות, מפגשים עם אנשים מחוץ לכפר, וכמובן לתפילה. הוא בנוי בבניה “ירוקה”, ומהווה דוגמא לשמירת הסביבה, לפרוייקט קהילתי, ולדו-קיום.

לכתבות באנגלית על המסגד:

http://www.maannews.net/en/index.php?opr=ShowDetails&ID=31522

http://joshberer.wordpress.com/2008/10/29/the-straw-bale-mosque/

באם לא תוכלו להגיע, שילחו פקסים, והביעו מחאתכם:

השר לשירותי דת, יצחק הכהן. פקס: 02 6706157. izchakec@knesset.gov.il

שר הפנים, מאיר שיטרית: פקס: 02 6408920.mshitrit@knesset.gov.il

שר הבינוי והשיכון, האחראי גם על מנהל מקרקעי ישראל, וגם על “תיק הבדואים”, זאב בוים: פקס: 026496062 zaevb@knesset.gov.il .

לעוד מידע: מחמוד ג’‘רביה, מרכז הפרוייקט, וואדי נאעם: 0574662331

דר’‘ יעלה רענן, המועצה האזורית לכפרים הבלתי מוכרים: 0547487005

ראעד אל מקוואי, מנכ”ל עמותת בוסטאן: 0523711801